Skip to main content

Full text of "The Case For A Creator"

See other formats

The Case for a Creator Copyright © 2004 by Lee Strobel 

This title is also available as a Zondervan ebook product. Visit www, for more information. 

This title is also available as a Zondervan audio product. Visit for more information. 

Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Strobel, Lee, 1952 

The case for a Creator : a journalist investigates scientific evidence that points toward God / Lee Strobel- 1st ed. 

p. cm. 
Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 0-310-24144-8 (hardcover)-ISBN 0-310-24050-6 (softcover) 1. God-Proof, Cosmological. 2. Religion and science. I. 
Title. BT103.S77 2004 
This edition printed on acid-free paper. 

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version". NIV°. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 
1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. 

The website addresses recommended throughout this book are offered as a resource to you. These websites are not intended in any way to be or 
imply an endorsement on the part of Zondervan, nor do we vouch for their content for the life of this book. 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means- 
electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other-except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the 

Interior design by Michelle Espinoza Printed in the United States o f America 


Chapter 1 

White-Coated Scientists 
Versus Black-Robed Preachers 

Chapter 2 

The Images of Evolution 

Chapter 3 

Doubts about Darwinism 

An interview with Jonathan Wells 

Chapter 4 

Where Science Meets Faith 

An interview with Stephen C. Meyer 

Chapter 5 

The Evidence of Cosmology: Beginning with a Bang 

An interview with William Lane Craig 

Chapter 6 

The Evidence of Physics: 

The Cosmos on a Razor's Edge 

An interview with Robin Collins 

Chapter 7 

The Evidence of Astronomy: The Privileged Planet 

An interview with Guillermo Gonzalez 

and Jay Wesley Richards 

Chapter 8 

The Evidence of Biochemistry: 

The Complexity of Molecular Machines 

An interview with Michael J. Belie 

Chapter 9 

The Evidence of Biological Information: 
The Challenge ofDNA and the Origin of Life 
An interview with Stephen C. Meyer 

Chapter 10 

The Evidence of Consciousness: The Enigma of the Mind 
An interview with J. P. Moreland 

Chapter 1 1 

The Cumulative Case for a Creator 

Appendix: A Summary of the Case for Christ 

Deliberations: Questions for Reflection or Group Study 




About the Author 






The deadline was looming for the "Green Streak," the afternoon edition of the Chicago Tribune, 
and the frenzied atmosphere in the newsroom was carbonated with activity. Teletypes clattered 
behind Plexiglas partitions. Copy boys darted from desk to desk. Reporters hunched over their 
typewriters in intense concentration. Editors barked into telephones. On the wall, a huge clock 
counted down the minutes. 

A copy boy hustled into the cavernous room and tossed three copies of the Chicago Daily 
News, hot off the presses, onto the middle of the city desk. Assistant city editors lunged at them 
and hungrily scanned the front page to see if the competition had beaten them on anything. One 
of them let out a grunt. In one motion, he ripped out an article and then pivoted, waving it in the 
face of a reporter who had made the mistake of hovering too closely. 

"Recover this!" he demanded. Without looking at it, the reporter grabbed the scrap and 
headed for his desk to quickly make some phone calls so he could produce a similar story. 

Reporters at City Hall, the Criminal Courts Building, the State of Illinois Building, and Police 
Headquarters were phoning assistant city editors to "dope" their stories. Once the reporters had 
provided a quick capsule of the situation, the assistants would cover their phone with a hand and 
ask their boss, the city editor, for a decision on how the article should be handled. 

"The cops were chasing a car and it hit a bus," one of them called over to the city editor. "Five 
injured, none seriously." 

"School bus?" 

"City bus." 

The city editor frowned. "Gimme a four-head," came the ordercode for a three-paragraph 

"Four head," the assistant repeated into the phone. He pushed a button to connect the reporter 
to a rewrite man, who would take down details on a typewriter and then craft the item in a matter 
of minutes. 

The year was 1974. I was a rookie, just three months out of the University of Missouri's 

school of journalism. I had worked on smaller newspapers since I was fourteen, but this was the 
big leagues. I was already addicted to the adrenaline. 

On that particular day, though, I felt more like a spectator than a participant. I strolled over to 
the city desk and unceremoniously dropped my story into the "in" basket. It was a meager 
offering-a one-paragraph "brief about two pipe bombs exploding in the south suburbs. The item 
was destined for section three, page ten, in a journalistic trash heap called "metropolitan briefs." 
However, my fortunes were about to change. 

Standing outside his glass-walled office, the assistant managing editor caught my attention. 
"C'mere," he called. 

I walked over. "What's up?" 

"Look at this," he said as he handed me a piece of wire copy. He didn't wait for me to read it 
before he started filling me in. 

"Crazy stuff in West Virginia," he said. "People getting shot at, schools getting bombed-all 
because some hillbillies are mad about the textbooks being used in the schools." 

"You're kidding," I said. "Good story." 

My eyes scanned the brief Associated Press report. I quickly noticed that pastors were 
denouncing textbooks as being "anti-God" and that rallies were being held in churches. My 
stereotypes clicked in. 

"Christians, huh?" I said. "So much for loving their neighbors. And not being judgmental." 

He motioned for me to follow him over to a safe along the wall. He twirled the dial and 
opened it, reaching in to grab two packets of twenty-dollar bills. 

"Get out to West Virginia and check it out," he said as he handed me the six hundred dollars 
of expense money. "Give me a story for the bulldog." He was referring to the first edition of next 
Sunday's paper. That didn't give me much time. It was already noon on Monday. 

I started to walk away, but the editor grabbed my arm. "Look-be careful," he said. 

I was oblivious. "What do you mean?" 

He gestured toward the AP story I was clutching. "These hillbillies hate reporters," he said. 
"They've already beaten up two of them. Things are volatile. Be smart." 

I couldn't tell if the emotional surge I felt was fear or exhilaration. In the end, it didn't really 
matter. I knew I had to do whatever it would take to get the story. But the irony wasn't lost on 
me: these people were followers of the guy who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," and yet I 
was being warned to keep on guard to avoid getting roughed up. 

"Christians /muttered under my breath. Hadn't they heard, as one skeptic famously put it, 

that modern science had already dissolved Christianity in a vat of nitric acid?' 


From the gleaming office buildings in downtown Charleston to the dreary backwood hamlets 
in surrounding Kanawha County, the situation was tense when I arrived the next day and began 
poking around for a story. Many parents were keeping their kids out of school; coal miners had 
walked off the job in wildcat strikes, threatening to cripple the local economy; empty school 
buses were being shot at; firebombs had been lobbed at some vacant classrooms; picketers were 
marching with signs saying, "Even Hillbillies Have Constitutional Rights." Violence had left two 
people seriously injured. Intimidation and threats were rampant. 

The wire services could handle the day-to-day breaking developments in the crisis; I planned 
to write an overview article that explained the dynamics of the controversy. Working from my 
hotel room, I called for appointments with key figures in the conflict and then drove in my rental 

car from homes to restaurants to schools to offices in order to interview them. I quickly found 
that just mentioning the word "textbook" to anybody in these parts would instantly release a 
flood of vehement opinion as thick as the lush trees that carpet the Appalachian hillsides. 

"The books bought for our school children would teach them to lose their love of God, to 
honor draft dodgers and revolutionaries, and to lose their respect for their parents," insisted the 
intense, darkhaired wife of a Baptist minister as I interviewed her on the front porch of her 
house. As a recently elected school board member, she was leading the charge against the 

A community activist was just as opinionated in the other direction. "For the first time," she 
told me, "these textbooks reflect real Americanism, and I think it's exciting. Americanism, to me, 
is listening to all kinds of voices, not just white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants." 

The school superintendent, who had resigned at the height of the controversy, only shook his 
head in disdain when I asked him what he thought. "People around here are going flaky," he 
sighed. "Both poles are wrong." 

Meanwhile, ninety- six thousand copies of three hundred different textbooks had been 
temporarily removed from classrooms and stored in cardboard cartons at a warehouse west of 
Charleston. They included Scott Foresman Co.'s Galaxy series; McDougal, Littel Co.'s Man 
series; Allyn & Bacon Inc.'s Breakthrough series; and such classics as The Lord of the Flies, Of 
Human Bondage, Moby Dick, The Old Man and the Sea, Animal Farm, and Plato's Republic. 

What were people so angry about? Many said they were outraged at the "situational ethics" 
propounded in some of the books. One textbook included the story of a child cheating a 
merchant out of a penny. Students were asked, "Most people think that cheating is wrong. Do 
you think there is ever a time when it might be right? Tell when it is. Tell why you think it is 
right." Parents seized on this as undermining the Christian values they were attempting to 
inculcate into their children. 

"We're trying to get our kids to do the right thing," the parent of an elementary student told 
me in obvious frustration. "Then these books come along and say that sometimes the wrong 
thing is the right thing. We just don't believe in that! The Ten Commandments are the Ten 
Commandments. " 

But there was also an undercurrent of something else: an inchoate fear of the future, of 
change, of new ideas, of cultural transformation. I could sense a simmering frustration in people 
over how modernity was eroding the foundation of their faith. "Many of the protesters," wrote 
the Charleston Gazette, "are demonstrating against a changing world." 

This underlying concern was crystallized for me in a conversation with a local businessman 
over hamburgers at a Charleston diner. When I asked him why he was so enraged over the 
textbooks, he reached into his pocket and took out a newspaper clipping about the textbook 

"Listen to what Dynamics of Language tells our kids," he said as he quoted an excerpt from 
the textbook: "Read the theory of divine origin and the story of the Tower of Babel as told in 
Genesis. Be prepared to explain one or more ways these stories could be interpreted." 

He tossed the well-worn clipping on the table in disgust. "The theory of divine origin!" he 
declared. "The Word of God is not a theory. Take God out of creation and what's left? 
Evolution? Scientists want to teach our kids that divine origin is just a theory that stupid people 
believe but that evolution is a scientific fact. Well, it's not. And that's at the bottom of this." 

I cocked my head. "Are you saying Charles Darwin is responsible for all of this?" 

"Let me put it this way," he said. "If Darwin's right, we're just sophisticated monkeys. The 

Bible is wrong. There is no God. And without God, there's no right or wrong. We can just make 
up our morals as we go. The basis for all we believe is destroyed. And that's why this country is 
headed to hell in a handbasket. Is Darwin responsible? I'll say this: people have to choose 
between science and faith, between evolution and the Bible, between the Ten Commandments 
and make'em-up-as-you-go ethics. We've made our choice-and we're not budging." 

He took a swig of beer. "Have you seen the teacher's manual?" he asked. I shook my head. "It 
says students should compare the Bible story of Daniel in the Lion's Den to that myth about a 
lion. You know which one I'm talking about?" 

"Androcles and the Lion?" I asked, referring to the Aesop fable about an escaped slave who 
removed a thorn from the paw of a lion he encountered in the woods. Later, the recaptured slave 
was to be eaten by a lion for the entertainment of the crowd at the Roman Coliseum, but it turned 
out to be the same lion he had befriended. Instead of eating him, the lion gently licked his hand, 
which impressed the emperor so much that the slave was set free. 

"Yeah, that's the one," the businessman said as he wagged a french fry at me. "What does it 
tell our kids when they're supposed to compare that to the Bible? That the Bible is just a bunch of 
fairy tales? That it's all a myth? That you can interpret the Bible any way you darn well please, 
even if it rips the guts out of what it really says? We've got to put our foot down. I'm not going to 
let a bunch of eggheads destroy the faith of my children." 

I felt like I was finally getting down to the root of the controversy. I scribbled down his 
words as well as I could. Part of me, though, wanted to debate him. 

Didn't he know that evolution is a proven fact? Didn't he realize that in an age of science and 
technology that it's simply irrational to believe the ancient myths about God creating the world 
and shaping human beings in his own image? Did he really want his children clinging 
desperately to religious pap that is so clearly disproved by modern cosmology, astronomy, 
zoology, comparative anatomy, geology, paleontology, biology, genetics, and anthropology? 

I was tempted to say, "Hey, what is the difference between Daniel in the Lion's Den and 
Androcles and the Lion? They're both fairy tales!" But I wasn't there to get into an argument. I 
was there to report the story- and what a bizarre story it was! 

In the last part of the twentieth century, in an era when we had split the atom and put people 
on the moon and found fossils that prove evolution beyond all doubt, a bunch of religious zealots 
were tying a county into knots because they couldn't let go of religious folklore. It simply defied 
all reason. 

I thought for a moment. "One more question," I said. "Do you ever have any doubts?" 

He waved his hand as if to draw my attention to the universe. "Look at the world," he said. 
"God's fingerprints are all over it. I'm absolutely sure of that. How else do you explain nature and 
human beings? And God has told us how to live. If we ignore him-well, then the whole world's 
in for a whole lot of trouble." 

I reached for the check. "Thanks for your opinions," I told him. 


All of this was good stuff for my story, but I needed more. The leaders I had interviewed had 
all denounced the violence as being the unfortunate actions of a few hotheads. But to tell the 
whole story, I needed to see the underbelly of the controversy. I wanted to tap into the rage of 
those who chose violence over debate. My opportunity quickly came. 

A rally, I heard, was being planned for Friday night over in the isolated, heavily wooded 
community of Campbell's Creek. Angry parents were expected to gather and vote on whether to 

continue to keep their kids out of school. Tempers were at a boiling point, and the word was that 
reporters were not welcome. It seemed that folks were incensed over the way some big 
newspapers had caricatured them as know-nothing hillbillies, so this was intended to be a private 
gathering of the faithful, where they could freely speak their minds. 

This was my chance. I decided to infiltrate the rally to get an unvarnished look at what was 
really going on. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. 

I rendezvoused with Charlie, a top-notch photojournalist dispatched by the Tribune to capture 
the textbook war on film. We decided that we would sneak into the rural school where hundreds 
of agitated protesters were expected to pack the bleachers. I'd scribble my notes surreptitiously; 
Charlie would see whether he could snap a few discreet photos. We figured if we could just 
blend into the crowd, we'd get away with it. 

We figured wrong. 

Our shiny new rental car stood in sharp contrast with the dusty pick-up trucks and well-used 
cars that were hastily left at all angles on the gravel parking lot. We tried to be as inconspicuous 
as possible as we walked nonchalantly beside the stragglers who were streaming toward the 
gymnasium. Charlie kept his Nikons hidden beneath his waist- length denim jacket, but there was 
no way he could conceal his long black hair. 

At first, I thought we'd gotten away with it. We flowed with the crowd through a side door of 
the gym. Inside, the noise was deafening. Two large bleachers were packed with animated and 
agitated people who all seemed to be talking at once. Someone was setting up a small speaker on 
the floor of the gym. Charlie and I were milling around with people who were standing by the 
door, unable to find a seat. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention to us. 

A beefy man in a white short- sleeve shirt and dark, narrow tie took the handheld microphone 
and blew into it to see if it was working. "Let me have your attention," he shouted over the din. 
"Let's get started." 

People began to settle down. But as they did, I got the uncomfortable feeling that a lot of 
eyes were starting to bore in on us. "Wait a minute," the guy at the microphone said. "We've got 
some intruders here!" With that, he turned and glared at Charlie and me. People around us 
pivoted to confront the two of us. The room fell silent. 

"C'mon out here!" the man demanded, gesturing for both of us to come onto the gym floor. 
"Who are you? You're not welcome here!" 

With that, the crowd erupted into catcalls and jeers. Unsure what to do, Charlie and I 
stepped hesitantly toward the man with the microphone. It seemed like all of the anger in the 
room was suddenly focused on the two of us. 

My first thought was that I didn't like becoming part of the story. My second thought was 
that this mob was going to throw us out of the place-and we were going to get roughed up along 
the way. My third thought was that nothing in journalism school had prepared me for this. 

"What should we do with these two boys?" the man asked, baiting the crowd. Now the folks 
were really riled! I felt like I was being put on trial. When I used to hear the phrase my knees 
were shaking, I thought it was just a figure of speech. But my knees were shaking ! 
"Let's get rid of them!" he declared. 

The door was blocked. There was nowhere to run. But just as some men were surging 
forward to grab us, a part-time truck driver, part-time preacher stepped up and wrested away the 
microphone. He raised his hand to stop them. 

"Hold on!" he shouted. "Just a minute! Settle down!" Obviously, he was someone the crowd 
respected. The noise subsided. "Now listen to me," he continued. "I've seen this reporter around 

town the last few days, interviewing both sides of this thing. I think he wants to tell the story like 
it is. I think he wants to be fair. I say we give him a chance. I say we let him stay!" 

The crowd was uncertain. There was some grumbling. The preacher turned toward me. 
"You're gonna be fair, aren't you?" he asked. 

I nodded as reassuringly as I could. 

The preacher turned to the crowd. "How else are we going to get our story out?" he asked. 
"Let's welcome these fellas and trust they're gonna do the right thing!" 

That seemed to convince them. The mood quickly shifted. In fact, some people started 
applauding. Instead of throwing us out, someone ushered us to seats in the front row of the 
bleachers. Charlie took out his cameras and began snapping pictures. I took out my notebook 
and pen. 


The preacher took control of the meeting. He turned to the crowd and held aloft a book titled 
Facts about VD. "This is gonna turn your stomachs, but this is the kind of book your children 
are reading!" he shouted in his Mayberry accent. 

There were gasps. "Get those books out of the schools!" someone shouted. "Get 'em out!" 
several others echoed as if they were saying "amen" at a revival meeting. 

The preacher began to pace back and forth, perspiration rings expanding on his white shirt, as 
he waved the book. "Y'all have got to force yourselves to look at these books so you can really 
understand what the issue is all about!" he declared. "Your children may be reading these books. 
This is not the way to teach our kids about sexdivorced from morality, divorced from God. And 
that's why we've got to continue keeping our kids out of school for another week to boycott these 
filthy, un-American, anti-religious books." 

That catapulted the crowd into a clapping frenzy. Money poured into the Kentucky Fried 
Chicken buckets being passed around for donations to fight the battle. 

The rally continued in that vein for another half an hour or so. At one point, the preacher's 
words were reminiscent of the businessman's comments earlier in the week. "We're not evolved 
from slime," he declared defiantly. "We're created in the image of God Almighty. And he's given 
us the best textbook in the world to tell us how to live!" The folks roared their approval. 

"The only victory we'll accept is a total victory," he declared. "We'll win-one way or the 

When he raised the issue of whether the school boycott should be continued through the 
coming week, the resounding response was yes. The goal of the rally accomplished, he issued a 
quick "God bless y'all," and the meeting was over. 

Now I had all the color I needed for my story. I hustled back to my hotel and banged out a 
piece for Sunday's paper, which appeared on the front page under the headline, "Textbook Battle 
Rages in Bible Belt County." I followed that with an in-depth article that also ran on the front 
page the next day. 2 

Settling back into my seat as I flew back to Chicago, I reflected on the experience and 
concluded that I had fulfilled my promise to the preacher: I had been fair to both sides. My 
articles were balanced and responsible. But, frankly, it had been difficult. 

Inside that gymnasium Friday night, I felt like I had stared unadorned Christianity in the 
face-and saw it for the dinosaur it was. 

Why couldn't these people get their heads out of the sand and admit the obvious: science had 
put their God out of a job! White-coated scientists of the modern world had trumped the black- 

robed priests of medieval times. Darwin's theory of evolution-no, the absolute fact of evolution- 
meant that there is no universal morality decreed by a deity, only culturally conditioned values 
that vary from place to place and situation to situation. 

I knew intuitively what prominent evolutionary biologist and historian William Provine of 

Cornell University would spell out explicitly in a debate years later. If Darwinism is true, he 

said, then there are five inescapable conclusions: 

there's no evidence for God 

there's no life after death 

there's no absolute foundation for right and wrong 

there's no ultimate meaning for life 

people don't really have free will 

To me, the controversy in West Virginia was a symbolic last gasp of an archaic belief 
system hurtling toward oblivion. As more and more young people are taught the ironclad 
evidence for evolution, as they understand the impossibility of miracles, as they see how science 
is on the path to ultimately explaining everything in the universe, then belief in an invisible 
God, in angels and demons, in a long-ago rabbi who walked on water and multiplied fish and 
bread and returned from the dead, will fade into a fringe superstition confined only to dreary 
backwoods hamlets like Campbell's Creek, West Virginia. 

As far as I was concerned, that day couldn't come soon enough. 



The problem is to get [people] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the 
world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and 
intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth. 

Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin 

Science ... has become identified with a philosophy known as materialism or scientific 
naturalism. This philosophy insists that nature is all there is, or at least the only thing 
about which we can have any knowledge. It follows that nature had to do its own creating, 
and that the means of creation must not have included any role for God. 

Evolution critic Phillip E. Johnson 

Rewind history to 1966. The big hit on the radio was Paul McCartney crooning "Michelle." On a 
television show called I Spy, Bill Cosby was becoming the first African-American to share the 
lead in a dramatic series. Bread was nineteen cents a loaf; a new Ford Fairlane cost $1,600. 

As a fourteen-year-old freshman at Prospect High School in northwest suburban Chicago, I 
was sitting in a third-floor science classroom overlooking the asphalt parking lot, second row 
from the window, third seat from the front, when I first heard the liberating information that 
propelled me toward a life of atheism. 

I already liked this introductory biology class. It fit well with my logical way of looking at the 
world, an approach that was already tugging me toward the evidence-oriented fields of 
journalism and law. I was incurably curious, always after answers, constantly trying to figure out 
how things worked. 

As a youngster, my parents once gave me an electric train for Christmas. A short time later 
my dad discovered me in the garage, repeatedly hurling the locomotive against the concrete floor 
in a futile attempt to crack it open. I didn't understand why he was so upset. All I was doing, I 
meekly explained, was trying to figure out what made it work. 

That's why I liked science. Here the teacher actually encouraged me to cut open a frog to 
find out how it functioned. Science gave me an excuse to ask all the "why" questions that 
plagued me, to try genetic experiments by breeding fruit flies, and to peer inside plants to learn 
about how they reproduced. To me, science represented the empirical, the trustworthy, the hard 
facts, the experimentally proven. I tended to dismiss everything else as being mere opinion, 

conjecture, superstition- and mindless faith. 

I would have resonated with what philosopher J. P. Moreland wrote years later, when he 
said that for many people the term scientific meant something was "good, rational, and modern," 
whereas something not scientific was old-fashioned and not worth the belief of thinking people. 3 
My trust in science had been shaped by growing up in postSputnik America, where science 
and technology had been exalted as holding the keys to the survival of our country. The 
Eisenhower administration had exhorted young people to pursue careers in science so America 
could catch up with-and surpass-our enemy, the Soviets, who had stunned the world in 1957 by 
launching the world's first artificial satellite into an elliptical orbit around Earth. 

Later, as our nation began unraveling in the 1960s, when social conventions were being 
turned upside down, when relativism and situational ethics were starting to create a quicksand of 
morality, when one tradition after another was being upended, I saw science as remaining 
steady-a foundation, an anchor, always rock-solid in its methodology while at the same time 
constantly moving forward in a reflection of the American can-do spirit. 

Put a man on the moon? Nobody doubted we would do it. New technology, from transistors 
to Teflon, kept making life in America better and better. Could a cure for cancer be far off? 

It was no accident that my admiration for scientific thinking was developing at the same 
time that my confidence in God was waning. In Sunday school and confirmation classes during 
my junior high school years, my "why" questions weren't always welcomed. While many of the 
other students seemed to automatically accept the truth of the Bible, I needed reasons for 
trusting it. But more often than not, my quest for answers was rebuffed. Instead, I was required 
to read, memorize, and regurgitate Bible verses and the writings of Martin Luther and other 
seemingly irrelevant theologians from the distant past. 

Who cared what these long-dead zealots believed? I had no use for the "soft" issues of faith 
and spirituality; rather, I was gravitating toward the "hard" facts of science. As Eugenie Scott of 
the National Center for Science Education observed, "You can't put an omnipotent deity in a test 
tube. "A If there wasn't any scientific or rational evidence for believing in such an entity, then I 
wasn't interested. 

That's when, on that pivotal day in biology class in 1966, I began to learn about scientific 
discoveries that, to borrow the words of British zoologist Richard Dawkins, "made it possible to 
be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." 5 


I tend to be a visual thinker. Images stick in my mind for long periods of time. When I think 
back to those days as a high school student, what I learned in the classroom and through my 
eager consumption of outside books can be summed up in a series of pictures. 

Image #1: The Tubes, Flasks, and Electrodes of the Stanley Miller 

This was the most powerful picture of all-the laboratory apparatus that Stanley Miller, then a 
graduate student at the University of Chicago, used in 1953 to artificially produce the building 
blocks of life. By reproducing the atmosphere of the primitive earth and then shooting electric 
sparks through it to simulate lightning, Miller managed to produce a red goo containing amino 

The moment I first learned of Miller's success, my mind flashed to the logical implication: if 
the origin of life can be explained solely through natural processes, then God was out of a job! 
After all, there was no need for a deity if living organisms could emerge by themselves out of the 

primordial soup and then develop naturally over the eons into more and more complex creatures- 
a scenario that was illustrated by the next image of evolution. 

Image #2: Darwin 's "Tree of Life" 

The first time I read Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, /was struck that there was only 
one illustration: a sketch in which he depicted the development of life as a tree, starting with an 
ancient ancestor at the bottom and then blossoming upward into limbs, branches, and twigs as 
life evolved with increasing diversity and complexity. 

As a recent textbook explained, Darwinism teaches that all life forms are "related through 
descent from some unknown prototype that lived in the remote past." 

It seemed obvious to me that there's such a phenomenon as microevolution, or variation 
within different kinds of animals. I could see this illustrated in my own neighborhood, where we 
had dozens of different varieties of dogs. But I was captivated by the more ambitious claim of 
macroevolution-that natural selection acting on random variation can explain how primitive cells 
morphed over long periods of time into every species of creatures, including human beings. In 
other words, fish were transformed into amphibians, amphibians into reptiles, and reptiles into 
birds and mammals, with humans having the same ancestor as apes. 

So while Miller seemed to establish that life could have arisen spontaneously in the chemical 
oceans of long-ago Earth, Darwin's theory accounted for how so many millions of species of 
organisms could slowly and gradually develop over huge expanses of time. Then came further 
confirmation of our common ancestry, illustrated by the next image. 

Image #3: Ernst Haeckel's Drawings of Embryos 

German biologist Ernst Haeckel, whose sketches of embryos could be found in virtually 
every evolution book I studied, provided even more evidence for all of life having the same 
ancient progenitor. By juxtaposing drawings of an embryonic fish, salamander, tortoise, chick, 
hog, calf, rabbit, and human, Haeckel graphically established that they all appeared strikingly 
similar in their earliest stages of development. It was only later that they became distinctly 

As my eyes scanned the top row of Haeckel's drawings, representing the early stage of 
embryonic development, I was stunned by how these vertebrates-which would eventually grow 
to become so radically different from each other-were virtually indistinguishable. 

Who could tell them apart? The human embryo could just as easily have been any one of the 
others. Obviously, Darwin was right when he said "we ought to frankly admit" universal 
common ancestry. And certainly the inexorable progression toward ever-increasing complexity 
could be seen in the next image. 

Image #4: The Missing Link 

The fossil is so astounding that one paleontologist called it "a holy relic of the past that has 
become a powerful symbol of the evolutionary process itself.'" It's the most famous fossil in the 
world: the archaeopteryx, or "ancient wing," a creature dating back 150 million years. With the 
wings, feathers, and wishbone of a bird, but with a lizard-like tail and claws on its wings, it was 
hailed as the missing link between reptiles and modern birds. 

One look at a picture of that fossil chased away any misgivings about whether the fossil 
record supported Darwin's theory. Here was a half-bird, half-reptile-I needed to look no further 
to believe that paleontology backed up Darwin. Indeed, the archaeopteryx, having been 
discovered in Germany immediately after The Origin of Species was published, "helped 

enormously to establish the credibility of Darwinism and to discredit skeptics," Johnson said. 

These images were just the beginning of my education in evolution. By the time I had 
completed my study of the topic, I was thoroughly convinced that Darwin had explained away 
any need for God. And that's a phenomenon I have seen over and over again. 

I've lost count of the number of spiritual skeptics who have told me that their seeds of doubt 
were planted in high school or college when they studied Darwinism. When I read in 2002 about 
an Eagle Scout being booted from his troop for refusing to pledge reverence to God, I wasn't 
surprise to find out he "has been an atheist since studying evolution in the ninth grade." 9 

As Oxford evolutionist Dawkins said: "The more you understand the significance of 
evolution, the more you are pushed away from an agnostic position and towards atheism." 10 


Not everyone, however, believes that Darwinian evolutionary theory and God are 
incompatible. There are some scientists and theologians who see no conflict between believing in 
the doctrines of Darwin and the doctrines of Christianity. 

Nobel-winning biologist Christian de Duve insisted there's "no sense in which atheism is 
enforced or established by science,"" while biology professor Kenneth R. Miller of Brown 
University declared that evolution "is not anti-God." Philosopher Michael Ruse, himself an 
ardent naturalist, answered the question, "Can a Darwinian be a Christian?" by declaring, 
"Absolutely!" In his view, "No sound argument has been mounted showing that Darwinism 
implies atheism." 13 

Biologist Jean Pond, who formerly taught at Whitworth College, proudly describes herself as 
"a scientist, an evolutionist, a great admirer of Charles Darwin, and a Christian." 1 4 She elaborated 
by saying: "Believing that evolution occurred-that humans and all other living things are related 
as part of creation's giant family tree, that it is possible that the first cell arose by the natural 
processes of chemical evolution-neither requires nor even promotes an atheistic worldview." 15 

Personally, however, I couldn't understand how the Darwinism I was taught left any 
meaningful role for God. I was told that the evolutionary process was by definition undirected- 
and to me, that automatically ruled out a supernatural deity who was pulling the strings behind 
the scene. 

One recent textbook was very clear about this: v By coupling undirected, purposeless 
variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual 
explanations of life processes superfluous." 16 Other textbooks affirm that evolution is "random 
and undirected" and "without either plan or purpose" and that "Darwin gave biology a sound 
scientific basis by attributing the diversity of life to natural causes rather than supernatural 

If this is how scientists define Darwinism, then it seemed to me that God has been given his 
walking papers. To try to somehow salvage an obscure role for him appears pointless, which 
Cornell's William Provine readily concedes: "A widespread theological view now exists saying 
that God started off the world, props it up and works through laws of nature, very subtly, so 
subtly that its action is undetectable," he said. "But that kind of God is effectively no different to 
my mind than atheism." 18 

Certainly Christians would say that God is not a hidden and uninvolved deity who thoroughly 
conceals his activity, but rather that he has intervened in the world so much that the Bible says 
his qualities "have been clearly seen ... from what has been made." 19 Cambridgeeducated 
philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the 

Discovery Institute in Seattle, put it this way: 

Many evolutionary biologists admit that science cannot categorically exclude the 
possibility that some kind of deity still might exist. Nor can they deny the possibility of a 
divine designer who so masks his creative activity in apparently natural processes as to 
escape scientific detection. Yet for most scientific materialists such an undetectable entity 
hardly seems worthy of consideration. 20 

Even so, Meyer stressed that "contemporary Darwinism does not envision a God-guided 
process of evolutionary change." 21 He cites a famous observation by the late evolutionary 
biologist George Gaylord Simpson that Darwinism teaches "man is the result of a purposeless 
and natural process that did not have him in mind." 22 The ramifications are unmistakable, 
according to Meyer: "To say that God guides an inherently unguided natural process, or that God 
designed a natural mechanism as a substitute for his design, is clearly contradictory." 23 

Nancy Pearcey, who has written extensively on science and faith, insists that "you can have 
God or natural selection, but not both." 24 She pointed out that Darwin himself recognized that the 
presence of an omnipotent deity would actually undermine his theory. "If we admit God into the 
process, Darwin argued, then God would ensure that only "the right variations occurred ... and 
natural selection would be superfluous. "25 

Law professor Phillip Johnson, author of the breakthrough critique of evolution Darwin On 
Trial, agrees that "the whole point of Darwinism is to show that there is no need for a 
supernatural creator, because nature can do the creating by itself." 26 

In fact, many of the evolutionists who have felt the sting of Johnson's criticism nevertheless 
find themselves in agreement with him on this particular matter. For example, evolutionary 
biologist Ernst Mayr emphasized that "the real core of Darwinism" is natural selection, which 
"permits the explanation of adaption ... by natural means, instead of by divine intervention." 27 

Another leading evolutionist, Francisco Ayala, who was ordained a Dominican priest prior to 
his science career and yet refused in a recent interview to confirm whether he still believes in 
God, 28 said Darwin's "greatest accomplishment" was to show that "living beings can be 
explained as the result of a natural process, natural selection, without any need to resort to a 
Creator or other external agent." 

When an attorney asked the outspoken Pro vine whether there is "an intellectually honest 
Christian evolutionist position ... or do we simply have to check our brains at the church house 
door," Pro vine's answer was straightforward: "You indeed have to check your brains." 30 
Apparently to him, the term "Christian evolutionist" is oxymoronic. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning sociobiologist Edward 0. Wilson was adamant on this issue. "If 
humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection," he said, "genetic chance and environmental 
necessity, not God, made the species." 31 No ambiguity there. 

Characteristically, Time magazine summed up the matter succinctly: "Charles Darwin didn't 
want to murder God, as he once put it. But he did." 32 


I wasn't aware of these kind of observations when I was a student. I just knew intuitively that 
the theories of Darwin gave me an intellectual basis to reject the mythology of Christianity that 
my parents had tried to foist on me through my younger years. 

At one point, I remember reading the World Book Encyclopedia that my parents had given 
me as a birthday present to answer the "why" questions with which I was always tormenting 

them. Reading selectively from the entry on evolution served to reinforce my sense that 
Christianity and Darwinism are incompatible. 

"In the Bible, God is held to be the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Ultimate End of all 
things," the encyclopedia said. "Many Christians believe that it is impossible to reconcile this 
conviction with the idea that evolutionary development has been brought about by natural forces 
present in organic life." 33 

Everything fell into place for me. My assessment was that you didn't need a Creator if life 
can emerge unassisted from the primordial slime of the primitive earth, and you don't need God 
to create human beings in his image if we are merely the product of the impersonal forces of 
natural selection. In short, you don't need the Bible if you've got The Origin of Species. 

I was experiencing on a personal level what philosopher Daniel Dennett has observed: 
Darwinism is a "universal acid" that "eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves 
in its wake a revolutionized worldview." 34 

My worldview was being revolutionized, all right, yet in my youthful optimism I wasn't 
ready to examine some of the disheartening implications of my new philosophy. I conveniently 
ignored the grim picture painted by British atheist Bertrand Russell, who wrote about how 
science had presented us with a world that was "purposeless" and "void of meaning." He said: 

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; 
that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs are but the outcome 
of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and 
feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all 
the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined 
to extinction ... that the whole temple of man's achievement must inevitably be buried-all 
these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy 
which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on 
the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely 
built. 36 

Rather than facing this "unyielding despair" that's implicit in a world without God, I reveled 
in my newly achieved freedom from God's moral strictures. For me, living without God meant 
living one hundred percent for myself. Freed from someday being held accountable for my 
actions, I felt unleashed to pursue personal happiness and pleasure at all costs. 

The sexual revolution of the '60s and 70s was starting to dawn, and I was liberated to indulge 
as much as I wanted, without having to look over my shoulder at God's disapproving gaze. As a 
journalist, I was unshackled to compete without always having to abide by those pesky rules of 
ethics and morality. I would let nothing, and certainly nobody, stand between me and my 

Who cared if scientific materialism taught that there is nothing other than matter and 
therefore no person could possibly survive the grave? I was too young to trifle with the 
implications of that; instead, I pursued the kind of immortality I could attain by leaving my mark 
as a successful journalist, whose investigations and articles would spur new legislation and social 
reform. As for the finality of death- well, I had plenty of time to ponder that later. There was too 
much living to do in the meantime. 

So the seeds of my atheism were sown as a youngster when religious authorities seemed 
unwilling or unable to help me get answers to my questions about God. My disbelief flowered 
after discovering that Darwinism displaces the need for a deity. And my atheism came to full 

bloom when I studied Jesus in college and was told that no science-minded person could 
possibly believe what the New Testament says about him. 

According to members of the left-wing Jesus Seminar, the same impulse that had given rise 
to experimental science, "which sought to put all knowledge to the test of close and repeated 
observation," also prompted their efforts to finally distinguish "the factual from the fictional" in 
Jesus' life. They concluded that in "this scientific age," modern thinkers can no longer believe 
that Jesus did or said much of what the Bible claims. As they put it: 

The Christ of creed and dogma, who had been firmly in place in the Middle Ages, can no 
longer command the assent of those who have seen the heavens through Galileo's 
telescope. The old deities and demons were swept from the skies by that remarkable glass. 
Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo have dismantled the mythological abodes of the gods and 
Satan, and bequeathed us secular heavens. 31 

By the time I was halfway through college, my atheistic attitudes were so entrenched that I 
was becoming more and more impatient toward people of mindless faith, like those protesters I 
would later encounter in West Virginia. I couldn't fathom their stubborn reluctance to subject 
their outmoded beliefs to that "universal acid" of modern scientific thought. 

I felt smugly arrogant toward them. Let them remain slaves to their wishful thinking about a 
heavenly home and to the straightjacket morality of their imaginary God. As for me, I would 
dispassionately follow the conclusions of the scientists and historians whose logical and 
consistent research has reduced the world to material processes only. 


If I had stopped asking questions, that's where I would have remained. But with my 
background in journalism and law, the demanding of answers was woven into my nature. So five 
years after my adventure in West Virginia, when my wife Leslie announced that she had decided 
to become a follower of Jesus, it was understandable that the first words I uttered would be in the 
form of an inquiry. 

It wasn't asked politely. Instead, it was spewed in a venomous and accusatory tone: "What has 
gotten into you?" I simply couldn't comprehend how such a rational person could buy into an 
irrational religious concoction of wishful thinking, make-believe, mythology, and legend. 

In the ensuing months, however, as Leslie's character began to change, as her values 
underwent a transformation, as she became a more loving and caring and authentic person, I 
began asking the same question, only this time in a softer and more sincere tone of genuine 
wonderment: "What has gotten into you?" Something-or, as she would claim, Someone-was 
undeniably changing her for the better. 

Clearly, I needed to investigate what was going on. And so I began asking more questions-a 
lot of them-about faith, God, and the Bible. I was determined to go wherever the answers would 
take me-even though, frankly, I wasn't quite prepared back then for where I would ultimately end 

This multifaceted spiritual investigation lasted nearly two years. In my previous book, The 
Case for Christ, which retraced and expanded upon this journey, I discussed the answers I 
received from thirteen leading experts about the historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. 38 In 
my subsequent book, The Case for Faith, I pursued answers to the "Big Eight" questions about 
Christianity-the kind of issues that began troubling me even as a youngster but that nobody had 
been willing to answer. 

In those earlier hooks, however, I barely touched upon another important dimension to my 
investigation. Because science had played such an instrumental role in propelling me toward 
atheism, I also devoted a lot of time to posing questions about what the latest research says about 
God. With an open mind, I began asking: 

• Are science and faith doomed to always be at war? Was I right to think that a science- 
minded individual must necessarily eschew religious beliefs? Or is there a fundamentally 
different way to view the relationship between the spiritual and the scientific? 

• Does the latest scientific evidence tend to point toward or away from the existence of 

• Are those images of evolution that spurred me to atheism still valid in light of the most 
recent discoveries in science? 

When I first began exploring these issues in the early 1980s, I found that there was a 
sufficient amount of evidence to guide me to a confident conclusion. Much has changed since 
then, however. Science is always pressing relentlessly forward, and a lot more data and many 
more discoveries have been poured into the reservoir of scientific knowledge during the past 
twenty years. 

All of which has prompted me to ask a new question: does this deeper and richer pool of 
contemporary scientific research contradict or affirm the conclusions I reached so many years 
ago? Put another way, in which direction-toward Darwin or God-is the current arrow of science 
now pointing? 

"Science," said two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, "is the search for the truth." 40 
And that's what I decided to embark upon-a new journey of discovery that would both broaden 
and update the original investigation I conducted into science more than two decades ago. 

My approach would be to cross-examine authorities in various scientific disciplines about the 
most current findings in their fields. In selecting these experts, I sought doctorate-level 
professors who have unquestioned expertise, are able to communicate in accessible language, 
and who refuse to limit themselves only to the politically correct world of naturalism or 
materialism. After all, it wouldn't make sense to rule out any hypothesis at the outset. I wanted 
the freedom to pursue all possibilities. 

I would stand in the shoes of the skeptic, reading all sides of each topic and posing the 
toughest objections that have been raised. More importantly, I would ask the experts the kind of 
questions that personally plagued me when I was an atheist. In fact, perhaps these are the very 
same issues that have proven to be sticking points in your own spiritual journey. Maybe you too 
have wondered whether belief in a supernatural God is consistent with what science has 
uncovered about the natural world. 

If so, I hope you'll join me in my investigation. Strip away your preconceptions as much as 
possible and keep an open mind as you eavesdrop on my conversations with these fascinating 
scientists and science-trained philosophers. At the end you can decide for yourself whether their 
answers and explanations stand up to scrutiny. 

Let me caution you, though, that getting beyond our prejudices can be difficult. At least, it 
was for me. I once had a lot of motivation to stay on the atheistic path. I didn't want there to be a 
God who would hold me responsible for my immoral lifestyle. As the legal-affairs editor at the 
most powerful newspaper in the Midwest, I was used to pushing people around, not humbly 
submitting myself to some invisible spiritual authority. 

I was trained not only to ask questions, however, but to go wherever the answers would take 
me. And I trust you have the same attitude. I hope you'll be willing to challenge what you may 

have been taught in a classroom some time back-information that might have been eclipsed by 
more recent discoveries. 

Scientists themselves will tell you that this is entirely appropriate. "All scientific knowledge," 
said no less an authority than the National Academy of Sciences, "is, in principle, subject to 
change as new evidence becomes available." 41 

What does this new evidence show? Be prepared to be amazed-even dazzled-by the startling 
new narrative that science has been busy writing over the past few decades. 

"The Old Story of Science is scientific materialism," wrote theoretical physicist George 
Stanciu and science philosopher Robert Augros. "It holds that only matter exists and that all 
things are explicable in terms of matter alone." 42 But, they said, in recent years "science has 
undergone a series of dramatic revolutions" that have "transformed the modern conception of 
man and his place in the world." 43 

This astounding "New Story of Science"-with its surprising plot twists and intriguing 
characters-unfolds in the coming pages, starting with an interview that rewrites the books that 
first led me into atheism. 


No educated person any longer questions the validity of the socalled theory of evolution, 
which we now know to be a simple fact. 

Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr 

Scientists who utterly reject evolution may be one of our fastestgrowing controversial 
minorities.... Many of the scientists supporting this position hold impressive credentials in 

Larry Hatfield in Science Digest 

There were one hundred of them-biologists, chemists, zoologists, physicists, anthropologists, 
molecular and cell biologists, bioengineers, organic chemists, geologists, astrophysicists, and 
other scientists. Their doctorates came from such prestigious universities as Cambridge, 
Stanford, Cornell, Yale, Rutgers, Chicago, Princeton, Purdue, Duke, Michigan, Syracuse, 
Temple, and Berkeley. 

They included professors from Yale Graduate School, the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology, Tulane, Rice, Emory, George Mason, Lehigh, and the Universities of California, 
Washington, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, 
Iowa, Georgia, New Mexico, Utah, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. 

Among them was the director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry and 
scientists at the Plasma Physics Lab at Princeton, the National Museum of Natural History at the 
Smithsonian Institute, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Lawrence Livermore 

And they wanted the world to know one thing: they are skeptical. 

After spokespersons for the Public Broadcasting System's seven-part television series 
Evolution asserted that "all known scientific evidence supports [Darwinian] evolution" as does 
"virtually every reputable scientist in the world," these professors, laboratory researchers, and 
other scientists published a two-page advertisement in a national magazine under the banner: "A 
Scientific Dissent From Darwinism." 

Their statement was direct and defiant. "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random 
mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life," they said. "Careful 
examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." 3 

These were not narrow-minded fundamentalists, backwoods West Virginia protesters, or 
rabid religious fanatics-just respected, worldclass scientists like Nobel nominee Henry F. 
Schaefer, the third mostcited chemist in the world; James Tour of Rice University's Center for 
Nanoscale Science and Technology; and Fred Figworth, professor of cellular and molecular 
physiology at Yale Graduate School. 

Together, despite the specter of professional persecution, they broached the politically 
incorrect opinion that the emperor of evolution has no clothes. 

As a high school and university student studying evolution, I was never told that there were 
credible scientists who harbored significant skepticism toward Darwinian theory. I had been 
under the impression that it was only know-nothing pastors who objected to evolution on the 
grounds that it contradicted the Bible's claims. I wasn't aware that, according to historian Peter 
Bowler, substantive scientific critiques of natural selection started so early that by 1900 "its 
opponents were convinced it would never recover." 4 

Viewers of the popular 2001 PBS series weren't told that, either. In fact, its one-sided 
depiction of evolution spurred a backlash from many scientists. A detailed, 151-page critique 
claimed it "failed to present accurately and fairly the scientific problems with the evidence for 
Darwinian evolution" and even systematically ignored "disagreements among evolutionary 
biologists themselves." 5 

In my quest to determine if contemporary science points toward or away from God, I knew I 
had to first examine the claims of evolution in order to conclude once and for all whether 
Darwinism creates a reasonable foundation for atheism. That's because if the materialism of 
Darwinian evolution is a fact, then the atheistic conclusions I reached as a student might still be 
valid. Only after resolving this issue could I move ahead to assessing whether there is persuasive 
affirmative evidence for a Creator. 

So I decided to return, in effect, to my days as a student by reexamining those images of 
evolution-the Miller experiment, Darwin's tree of life, Haeckel's embryos, and the archaeopteryx 
missing link-which had convinced me that undirected and purposeless evolutionary processes 
accounted for the origin and complexity of life. 

Those symbols are hardly outdated. In fact, to this day those very same icons are still 
featured in many biology textbooks and are being seared into the minds of students around the 
country. But are they accurate in what they convey? What do they really tell us about the 
trustworthiness of Darwinism? 

I was thinking about this late one night while I was hunched over my computer keyboard, 
surfing the Internet for airline tickets. Leslie strolled into my office and peered over my shoulder. 

"Where are you headed?" she asked. 

"Seattle," I replied. I swiveled in my chair to face her. "There's a scientist up there who can 
make sense of those images of evolution that influenced me. I think I can relate to him." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Well," I said, "he studied evolution as a college student-and guess what happened?" 

Leslie looked puzzled. "What?" she asked. 

"He became an atheist." 


Science classes weren't heavily steeped in Darwinism when Jonathan Wells was a high 
school student in the late 1950s, but when he began studying geology at Princeton University, he 
found that everything was viewed through evolutionary lenses. Though he had grown up in the 
Presbyterian church, by the time Wells was halfway through college he considered himself to be 
an atheist. 

'Was your atheism influenced by the Darwinian paradigm?" I asked. 

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "The evolutionary story simply replaced the religious imagery I 
had grown up with. I didn't need the spiritual anymore-except this vague, Gandhian, search-for- 
truth feeling I had." 

I was sitting with Wells in an office at the Discovery Institute, located on the fourth floor of 
an obscure office building in downtown Seattle. Wells serves as a senior fellow with the 
Institute's Center for Science and Culture, an organization that neatly blends his dual passions for 
both hard science and the issue of science's influence on the broader society. 

His undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley was in geology and 
physics, with a minor in biology. At Yale Graduate School, where he earned a doctorate in 
religious studies, Wells specialized in the nineteenth-century controversies surrounding Darwin. 
His book, Charles Hodge's Critique of Darwinism, was published in 1988. 6 

In 1994, Wells received a doctorate in molecular and cell biology from Berkeley, where he 
focused primarily on vertebrate embryology and evolution. He later worked at Berkeley as a 
post-doctorate research biologist. Wells has written on the scientific and cultural aspects of 
evolution in such journals as Origins & Design, The Scientist, Touchstone, The American 
Biology Teacher, and Rhetoric and Public Affairs, while his technical articles-with such 
scintillating titles as "Microtubule-mediated transport of organelles and localization of beta- 
catenin to the future dorsal side of Xenopus eggs"-have appeared in Proceedings of the National 
Academy of Sciences USA, Development, and BioSy stems. 

An inveterate iconoclast, Wells doesn't shy away from controversy. After a two-year stint in 
the Army, he became an antiwar activist at Berkeley and ended up doing jail time for refusing to 
go to Vietnam as a reservist. While later living a Thoreau-like existence in a remote California 
cabin, he became enthralled by the grandeur of creation and gained new confidence that God was 
behind it. His spiritual interest rejuvenated, Wells explored numerous religious alternatives, vis- 
iting gurus, preachers, and swamis. 

I hadn't come to Seattle, however, to seek spiritual wisdom from Wells. Instead, I sought him 
out because of his scientific expertiseand because he authored a book whose title intrigued me 
the moment I first saw it. 

Icons of Evolution, which was published in 2000, takes a clearheaded, scientific look at the 
very same visual images that had convinced me of the truth of Darwinian evolution. The Miller 
experiment, Darwin's tree of life, Haeckel's embryos, the archaeopteryx missing link-they were 
all there, along with several other symbols of evolution. The book's subtitle especially piqued my 
curiosity: Why Much of What We Teach about Evolution Is Wrong. 

Here was my chance to put these images-and the broader question of Darwinism's overall 
reliability-to the test. I eased into a comfortable chair that squarely faced the bearded and 
bespectacled Wells, who was sitting behind a wooden desk. He was casually dressed in a striped, 
short-sleeve shirt. While soft-spoken and mild-mannered as we chatted informally before our 
interview, he would quickly become animated as we began delving into his hot-button topic of 
evolutionary theory. 

I flipped through my yellow legal pad to find a fresh page and took a pen in hand. More than 
thirty-five years after these icons of evolution led me on a journey into naturalism and atheism, I 
was anxious to get the real story. 9 


Starting at the beginning, I briefly recounted for Wells how the four images of evolution had 
influenced my slide into atheism. In a subtle expression of empathy, he would nod almost 
imperceptibly as I talked, as if to reassure me that he understood what I had gone through. At the 
conclusion of my story, I gestured toward a copy of his book that was on the desk. 

"You included all four of those symbols in your book, along with several others," I said, "and 
you called them "icons of evolution.' Why did you use that term?" 

Wells leaned forward, putting his elbows on the desk. "Because if you ask almost any 
scientist to describe the evidence for Darwinism, time after time they give these same examples," 
he said. "They're in our textbooks. They're what we teach our students. For many scientists, they 
are the evidence for evolution." 

"What are the other icons?" 

"In addition to the four that influenced you, there is the similarity of bone structures in a bat's 
wing, a porpoise's flipper, a horse's leg, and a human hand. This is touted as evidence of their 
origin in a common ancestor. Then there are the pictures in textbooks of peppered moths on tree 
trunks, showing how camouflage and predatory birds result in natural selection. Of course, there 
are Darwin's finches-the Galapagos Island birds that are also used to support natural selection. 
Probably the most famous icon, though, is the drawing we see parodied in so many cartoons-the 
march of ape-like creatures as they slowly evolve into human beings, which suggests that we're 
merely animals that evolved by purposeless natural causes." 

I paused for a moment while I took some notes. "Before we go any further," I said, "let's get 
our definitions straight. When some people say v evolution,' they mean merely that there has been 
change over time. But that's not an accurate description, is it?" 

"Absolutely not," Wells replied. "If that's all there was to Darwinism, then there wouldn't be 
any controversy, because we all agree there has been biological change over time. Others define 
evolution as just being "descent with modification.' But again, everyone agrees that all organisms 
within a single species are related through descent with modification. This occurs in the ordinary 
course of biological reproduction. 

"Darwinism claims much more than that-it's the theory that all living creatures are modified 
descendents of a common ancestor that lived long ago. You and I, for example, are descendants 
of ape-like ancestors-in fact, we share a common ancestor with fruit flies. Darwinism claims that 
every new species that has ever appeared can be explained by descent with modification. Neo- 
Darwinism claims these modifications are the result of natural selection acting on random 
genetic mutations.'" 

"If these icons are the illustrations most cited as evidence of evolution, then I can see why 
they're important," I said. "What did you find as you examined them one by one?" 

Wells didn't hesitate. "That they're either false or misleading," he replied. 

"False or misleading?" I echoed. "Wait a second-are you saying my science teacher was lying 
to me? That's a pretty outrageous charge!" 

Wells shook his head. "No, I'm not saying that. He probably believed in the icons too. I'm sure 
he wasn't even aware of the way they misrepresent the evidence. But the end result is the same- 
much of what science teachers have been telling students is simply wrong. A lot of what you 

personally were told about the icons, for instance, is probably false." 

I considered the implications for a moment. "Okay, let me follow your logic," I said. "If these 
icons are cited by scientists so often because they're among the best evidence for Darwinism-" 

"-And if they're either false or misleading," he said, picking up my thought, "then what does 
that tell us about evolutionary theory? That's the point. The question I'm raising is whether all of 
this is really science-or is it actually a kind of mythology?" 

That's the very question I wanted to pursue. I decided that my approach would be to ask Wells 
for the straight story on each of the icons that especially influenced me. I started with the one 
that had the biggest impact: the picture of the tubes, flasks, and electrodes of Stanley Miller's 
1953 experiment in which he shot electricity through an atmosphere like the one on the prim 
acids-the building blocks of life. 

The clear implication-that life could be created naturalistically, without the intervention of a 
Creator-had been largely responsible for untethering me from my need for God. 


Obviously, the significance of Miller's experiment- which to this day is still featured in many 
biology textbooks-hinges on whether he used an atmosphere that accurately simulated the 
environment of the early earth. At the time, Miller was relying heavily on the atmospheric 
theories of his doctoral advisor, Nobel laureate Harold Urey. 

"What's the best scientific assessment today?" I asked Wells. "Did Miller use the correct 
atmosphere or not?" 

Wells leaned back in his chair. "Well, nobody knows for sure what the early atmosphere was 
like, but the consensus is that the atmosphere was not at all like the one Miller used," he began. 

"Miller chose a hydrogen-rich mixture of methane, ammonia, and water vapor, which was 
consistent with what many scientists thought back then. But scientists don't believe that anymore. 
As a geophysicist with the Carnegie Institution said in the 1960s, "What is the evidence for a 
primitive methane-ammonia atmosphere on earth? The answer is that there is no evidence for it, 
but much against it." 

"By the mid-1970s, Belgian biochemist Marcel Florkin was declaring that the concept behind 
Miller's theory of the early atmosphere v has been abandoned.' 12 Two of the leading origin-of-life 
researchers, Klaus Dose and Sidney Fox, confirmed that Miller had used the wrong gas 
mixture. 13 And Science magazine said in 1995 that experts now dismiss Miller's experiment 
because v the early atmosphere looked nothing like the Miller-Urey simulation.'" 74 

I asked, "What's the current thinking of scientists concerning the gas content of the early 

"The best hypothesis now is that there was very little hydrogen in the atmosphere because it 
would have escaped into space. Instead, the atmosphere probably consisted of carbon dioxide, 
nitrogen, and water vapor," Wells said. "So my gripe is that textbooks still present the Miller 
experiment as though it reflected the earth's early environment, when most geochemists since the 
1960s would say it was totally unlike Miller's." 

I asked the next logical question: "What happens if you replay the experiment using an 
accurate atmosphere?" 

"I'll tell you this: you do not get amino acids, that's for sure," he replied. "Some textbooks 
fudge by saying, well, even if you use a realistic atmosphere, you still get organic molecules, as 
if that solves the problem." 

Actually, that sounded promising. "Organic molecules?" I said. "I'm not a biochemist, but 

couldn't those be precursors to life?" 

Wells recoiled. "That's what they sound like, but do you know what they are? Formaldehyde! 
Cyanide!" he declared, his voice rising for emphasis. "They may be organic molecules, but in my 
lab at Berkeley you couldn't even have a capped bottle of formaldehyde in the room, because the 
stuff is so toxic. You open the bottle and it fries proteins all over the place, just from the fumes. 
It kills embryos. The idea that using a realistic atmosphere gets you the first step in the origin of 
life is just laughable. 

"Now, it's true that a good organic chemist can turn formaldehyde and cyanide into biological 
molecules. But to suggest that formaldehyde and cyanide give you the right substrate for the 
origin of life," he said, breaking into a chuckle, "Well, it's just a joke." 

He let the point sink in before delivering the clincher. "Do you know what you get?" he 
asked. "Embalming fluid!" 


The march of science has clearly left Miller's experiment in the dust, even if some textbooks 
haven't yet noticed. But I wanted to press on and test other scenarios. 

"Let's say that a scientist someday actually manages to produce amino acids from a realistic 
atmosphere of the early earth," I began. I could see Wells was ready to interrupt, so I preempted 
him: "Look, I understand it's not chemically possible, but let's say it was. Or let's say amino acids 
came to earth in a comet or some other way. My question is this: how far would that be from 
creating a living cell?" 

"Oh," he said as he pounced on the question, "Very far. Incredibly far. That would be the first 
step in an extremely complicated process. You would have to get the right number of the right 
kinds of amino acids to link up to create a protein molecule-and that would still be a long way 
from a living cell. Then you'd need dozens of protein molecules, again in the right sequence, to 
create a living cell. The odds against this are astonishing. The gap between nonliving chemicals 
and even the most primitive living organism is absolutely tremendous." 

I needed a visual picture to help me understand this. "Can you give me an illustration?" I 

"Let me describe it this way," he said. "Put a sterile, balanced salt solution in a test tube. 
Then put in a single living cell and poke a hole in it so that its contents leak into the solution. 
Now the test tube has all the molecules you would need to create a living cell, right? You would 
already have accomplished far more than what the Miller experiment ever could-you've got all 
the components you need for life." 

I nodded. "That's right." 

"The problem is you can't make a living cell," he said. "There's not even any point in trying. 
It would be like a physicist doing an experiment to see if he can get a rock to fall upwards all the 
way to the moon. No biologist in his right mind would think you can take a test tube with those 
molecules and turn them into a living cell." 

"In other words," I said, "if you want to create life, on top of the challenge of somehow 
generating the cellular components out of nonliving chemicals, you would have an even bigger 
problem in trying to put the ingredients together in the right way." 

"Exactly! In my illustration, the cell is dead, and you can't put Humpty-Dumpty back 
together again. So even if you could accomplish the thousands of steps between the amino acids 
in the Miller tar-which probably didn't exist in the real world anyway-and the components you 
need for a living cell-all the enzymes, the DNA, and so forth-you're still immeasurably far from 


"But," I protested, "the first cell was probably a lot more primitive than even the simplest 
single-cell organism today." 

"Granted," he said. "But my point remains the same-the problem of assembling the right parts 
in the right way at the right time and at the right place, while keeping out the wrong material, is 
simply insurmountable. Frankly, the idea that we're on the verge of explaining the origin of life 
naturalistically is just silly to me." 

"There's no theory, then, that can account for how life could have naturally come together by 
itself without any direction or guidance?" 

Wells stroked his salt-and-pepper beard. "The word "theory' is very slippery," he replied. "I 
can make up a story, but it would be unsupported at every crucial step by any experimental 
evidence worth counting. I'm an experimentalist at heart. I'd want to see some evidence-and it's 
just not there. 

"For instance, one popular theory was that RNA, a close relative of DNA, could have been a 
molecular cradle from which early cells developed. This V RNA world' hypothesis was heralded 
as a great possibility for a while. But nobody could demonstrate how RNA could have formed 
before living cells were around to make it, or how it could have survived under the conditions on 
the early earth. 

"Gerald Joyce, a biochemist at the Scripps Research Institute, ruled out the RNA-first theory 
very colorfully by saying, "You have to build straw man upon straw man to get to the point 
where RNA is a viable first biomolecule.' 15 

"In short," declared Wells, "it was a dead end-as all other theories have been." 


In hindsight, my materialistic philosophy had been built on a foundation that history has 
subsequently dismantled piece by piece. Miller's experiment, once a great ally to my atheism, has 
been reduced to a mere scientific curiosity. 

"What is the significance of his experiment today?" I asked Wells. 

"To me, it has virtually no scientific significance," he replied. "It's historically interesting, 
because it convinced a lot of people through the years-yourself included-that life could have 
arisen spontaneously, a point which I believe is false. Does it have a place in a science textbook? 
Maybe as a footnote." 

"But it's more than a footnote in most texts, right?" 

"Unfortunately, yes," he said. "It's prominently featured in current textbooks, often with 
pictures. The most generous thing I can say is that it's misleading. It's wrong to even give the 
impression that science has empirically shown how life could have originated. Now, they may 
have a disclaimer buried in the text, saying the earth's atmosphere may not have been what 
Miller thought it was. But then they say that if a realistic environment is used, you still get 
organic molecules. To me, that's just as misleading." 

I thought about a student who encounters the Miller experiment today. Would he gloss over 
in his mind the complexities of creating life? Would he understand the nuances of the Miller 
story, or would he hear the term "organic molecules" and conclude that scientists are on the 
verge of resolving the problem of how nonliving chemicals somehow became living cells? 
Would a young person looking for an excuse to escape the accountability of God cling to the 
false conclusion that the origin-of-life problem is only a minor obstacle in the relentless march of 
evolutionary theory? 

"Why do you think the Miller experiment is still published in textbooks?" I asked. 
Wells shrugged. "It's becoming clearer and clearer to me that this is materialistic philosophy 
masquerading as empirical science. The attitude is that life had to have developed this way 
because there's no other materialistic explanation. And if you try to invoke another explanation- 
for instance, intelligent design-then the evolutionists claim you're not a scientist." 

Wells's explanation was consistent with another interview I had conducted with origin-of-life 
expert Walter Bradley, a former professor at Texas A&M University, who co-authored the 
landmark 1984 book The Mystery of Life's Origin. 

I questioned Bradley about the various theories advanced by scientists for how the first living 
cell could have been naturalistically generated-including random chance, chemical affinity, self- 
ordering tendencies, seeding from space, deep-sea ocean vents, and using clay to encourage 
prebiotic chemicals to assemble-and he demonstrated that not one of them can withstand 
scientific scrutiny.' 7 

Many other scientists have reached that same conclusion. "Science doesn't have the slightest 
idea how life began," journalist Gregg Easterbrook wrote about the origin-of-life field. "No 
generally accepted theory exists, and the steps leading from a barren primordial world to the 
fragile chemistry of life seem imponderable." 

Bradley not only shares that view, but he said that the mindboggling difficulties in bridging 
the yawning gap between nonlife and life mean that there may very well be no potential of ever 
finding a theory for how life could have arisen spontaneously. That's why he's convinced that the 
"absolutely overwhelming evidence" points toward an intelligence behind life's creation. 

In fact, he said: "I think people who believe that life emerged naturalistically need to have a 
great deal more faith than people who reasonably infer that there's an Intelligent Designer." 19 

Even those who look askance at religious faith have been forced to conclude that the odds 
against the spontaneous creation of life are so absurdly high that there must be more to the 
creation story than mere materialistic processes. They can't help but invoke the only word that 
seems to realistically account for it all: miracle. It's a label many scientists are loathe to use but 
which the circumstances seem to demand. 

For instance, one of the country's leading science journalists, John Horgan, who identifies 
himself as a "lapsed Catholic," conceded in 2002 that scientists have no idea how the universe 
was created or "how inanimate matter on our little planet coalesced into living creatures." Then 
came that word: "Science, you might say, has discovered that our existence is infinitely 
improbable, and hence a miracle." 20 

Even biochemist and spiritual skeptic Francis Crick, who shared the Nobel Prize for 
discovering the molecular structure of DNA, cautiously invoked the word a few years ago. "An 
honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some 
sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions 
which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going," he said. 21 

Others are more adamant. "If there isn't a natural explanation and there doesn't seem to be the 
potential of finding one, then I believe it's appropriate to look at a supernatural explanation," said 
Bradley. "I think that's the most reasonable inference based on the evidence." 22 


It was time to advance to the next image of evolution. One of the most recognizable icons is 
the drawing Darwin sketched for The Origin of Species to illustrate his theory that all living 
creatures had a common ancestor and that natural selection drove the eventual development of 

the countless organisms we see in the modern world. To me, his sketch of the evolutionary tree 
encapsulated why Darwinian evolution was so compelling: it seemed to explain everything in 
natural history. The question, though, is whether the tree represents reality. 

"We now have more than a century of fossil discoveries since Darwin drew his picture," I said 
to Wells. "Has this evolutionary tree held up?" 

"Absolutely not," came his quick reply. "As an illustration of the fossil record, the Tree of 
Life is a dismal failure. But it is a good representation of Darwin's theory. 

"You see, he believed that if a population was exposed to one set of conditions, and another 
part of the population experienced other conditions, then natural selection could modify the two 
populations in different ways. Over time, one species could produce several varieties, and if 
these varieties continued to diverge, they would eventually become separate species. That's why 
his drawing was in the pattern of a branching tree. 

"A key aspect of his theory was that natural selection would act, in his own words, "slowly 
by accumulating slight, successive, favorable variations' and that no great or sudden 
modifications' were possible." 

I didn't want to miss the significance of what Wells was claiming. "You're saying that the 
tree of life illustrates Darwin's ideas but that his theory is not supported by the physical evidence 
scientists have found in fossils?" 

"That's right," he continued. "In fact, Darwin knew the fossil record failed to support his tree. 
He acknowledged that major groups of animals-he calls them divisions, now they're called 
phyla-appear suddenly in the fossil record. 23 That's not what his theory predicts. 

"His theory predicts a long history of gradual divergence from a common ancestor, with the 
differences slowly becoming bigger and bigger until you get the major differences we have now. 
The fossil evidence, even in his day, showed the opposite: the rapid appearance of phylum-level 
differences in what's called the v Cambrian explosion.' 

"Darwin believed that future fossil discoveries would vindicate his theory-but that hasn't 
happened. Actually, fossil discoveries over the last hundred and fifty years have turned his tree 
upside down by showing the Cambrian explosion was even more abrupt and extensive than 
scientists once thought." 

That begged for further explanation. "Elaborate on the Cambrian explosion," I said. 
"The Cambrian was a geological period that we think began a little more than 540 million 
years ago. The Cambrian explosion has been called the "Biological Big Bang' because it gave 
rise to the sudden appearance of most of the major animal phyla that are still alive today, as well 
as some that are now extinct." Wells said. 

"Here's what the record shows: there were some jellyfish, sponges, and worms prior to the 
Cambrian, although there's no evidence to support Darwin's theory of a long history of gradual 

"Then at the beginning of the Cambrian-boom!-all of a sudden, we see representatives of the 
arthropods, modern representatives of which are insects, crabs, and the like; echinoderms, which 
include modern starfish and sea urchins; chordates, which include modern vertebrates; and so 
forth. Mammals came later, but the chordates-the major group to which they belong-were right 
there at the beginning of the Cambrian. 

"This is absolutely contrary to Darwin's Tree of Life. These animals, which are so 
fundamentally different in their body plans, appear fully developed, all of a sudden, in what 
paleontologists have called the single most spectacular phenomenon of the fossil record." 

Spectacular, indeed. It was staggering! But I was having trouble thinking in vast geological 

terms, where words like "sudden" and "abrupt" have meanings quite different from how we 
might use them in everyday conversation. I needed more clarity. 

"How suddenly did these animals come onto the scene?" I asked Wells. "Put it into context 

"Okay," he said. His eyes swept the room, looking for a suitable illustration. Finding none, he 
turned to me and asked: "Are you a football fan?" 

I felt trapped. I didn't want to admit that I've followed the hapless Chicago Bears ever since I 
was a teenager. 24 After all, my credibility was at stake! So I kept my answer vague: "Uh, yeah, I 
like the game." 

"Okay," he said, "imagine yourself on one goal line of a football field. That line represents 
the first fossil, a microscopic, single-celled organism. Now start marching down the field. You 
pass the twentyyard line, the forty-yard line, you pass midfield, and you're approaching the other 
goal line. All you've seen this entire time are these microscopic, single-celled organisms. 

"You come to the sixteen-yard line on the far end of the field, and now you see these sponges 
and maybe some jellyfish and worms. Then-boom! -in the space of a single stride, all these other 
forms of animals suddenly appear. As one evolutionary scientist said, the major animal groups 
"appear in the fossil record as Athena did from the head of Zeus-full blown and raring to go.' 25 

"Now, nobody can call that a branching tree! Some paleontologists, even though they may 
think Darwin's overall theory is correct, call it a lawn rather than a tree, because you have these 
separate blades of grass sprouting up. One paleontologist in China says it actually stands 
Darwin's tree on its head, because the major groups of animals-instead of coming last, at the top 
of the tree-come first, when animals make their first appearance. 

"Either way, the result is the same: the Cambrian explosion has uprooted Darwin's tree." 


There seemed, however, to be an easy comeback. "Maybe," I said, "Darwin was right after 
all-the fossil record is still incomplete. Who knows how natural history might be rewritten next 
week by a discovery that will be made in a fossil dig somewhere? Or perhaps," I speculated, "the 
organisms that existed prior to the Biological Big Bang were too small or their bodies were too 
soft to have left any trace in the fossil record." 

Having raised those objections, I sat back in my chair. "Frankly, you can't prove otherwise," I 
said, my words almost a taunt. 

Wells yielded a little. "As a scientist," he conceded, "I have to leave open the possibility that 
next year someone will discover a fossil bed in the Congo or somewhere that will suddenly fill in 
the gaps." 

I nodded at his admission. However, he wasn't finished. 

"But I sure don't think that's likely," he added. "It hasn't happened after all this time, and 
millions of fossils have already been dug up. There are certainly enough good sedimentary rocks 
from before the Cambrian era to have preserved ancestors if there were any. I have to agree with 
two experts in the field who said that the Cambrian explosion is "too big to be masked by flaws 
in the fossil record.' 26 

"As for the pre-Cambrian fossils being too tiny or soft to be preserved-well, we have 
microfossils of bacteria in rocks dating back more than three billion years. And there have been 
soft-bodied organisms from before the Cambrian that have been found in Australia. In fact, 
scientists have found soft-bodied animals in the Cambrian explosion itself. So I don't think that's 
a very good explanation, either. Today evolutionists are turning to molecular evidence to try to 

show there was a common ancestor prior to the Cambrian." 

"How does that work?" I asked. 

"Not very well," he quipped. "But here's the process: you can't get molecular evidence from 
the fossils themselves; all of it comes from living organisms. You take a molecule that's basic to 
life-say, ribosomal RNA-and you examine it in a starfish, and then you study its equivalent in a 
snail, a worm, and a frog. You're looking for similarities. If you compare this one molecule 
across different categories of animal body plans and find similarities, and if you make the 
assumption that they came from a common ancestor, then you can construct a theoretical 
evolutionary tree. 

"But there are too many problems with this. If you compare this molecular tree with a tree 
based on anatomy, you get a different tree. You can examine another molecule and come up with 
another tree altogether. In fact, if you give one molecule to two different laboratories, you can 
get two different trees. There's no consistency, including with the dating. It's all over the board. 
Based on all this, I think it's reasonable for me, as a scientist, to say that maybe we should ques- 
tion our assumption that this common ancestor exists." 

Wells stopped for a moment. He apparently felt some elaboration was in order. "Of course, 
descent from a common ancestor is true at some levels," he continued. "Nobody denies that. For 
example, we can trace generations of fruit flies to a common ancestor. Within a single species, 
common ancestry has been observed directly. And it's possible that all the cats-tigers, lions, and 
so on-descended from a common ancestor. While that's not a fact, it might be a reasonable 
inference based on interbreeding. 

"So as we go up these different levels in the taxonomic hierarchy-species, genus, family, 
order, class-common ancestry is certainly true at the species level, but is it true at higher levels? 
It becomes an increasingly uncertain inference the higher we go in the taxonomic hierarchy. 
When you get to the level of phyla, the major animal groups, it's a very, very shaky hypothesis. 
In fact, I would say it's disconfirmed. The evidence just doesn't support it." 

The facts were compelling. Nobody can claim that Darwin's tree is an accurate description of 
what the fossil record has produced. Protestations from Darwinists aside, the evidence has failed 
to substantiate the predictions that Darwin made. Yet when I encountered the drawing as a 
student, I walked away with the conclusion that it illustrated the success of his revolutionary 

"Is the drawing still featured in textbooks today?" I asked. 

"Not only is it included in the textbooks, but it's called a fact," Wells replied, sounding 
genuinely astonished. "I don't mind that it's shown; I think it's a good illustration of an interesting 
theory. What I mind is when textbooks call it a fact that all animals share a common a ncestor. 
Well, it's not a fact!" he declared, his voice punctuating his point. 

"If you consider all of the evidence, Darwin's tree is false as a description of the history of 
life. I'll even go further than that: it's not even a good hypothesis at this point." 


Like every young student of evolution, Wells had seen Ernst Haeckel's comparative drawings 
of embryos, often described as among the best evidence for Darwinism. But it wasn't until Wells 
was working on his doctorate in vertebrate embryology that he saw the sketches for what they 
really were. 

Haeckel's most renowned images depict the embryos of a fish, salamander, tortoise, chicken, 
hog, calf, rabbit, and human side-byside at three stages of development. The illustrations support 

Darwin's assertion that the striking similarities between early embryos is "by far the strongest 
single class of facts" in favor of his theory that all organisms share a universal ancestor. 

I was mesmerized by the nineteenth-century drawings when I first encountered them as a 
student. As I carefully compared the embryos at their earliest stage, looking back and forth from 
one to the other, I could see they were virtually indistinguishable. I searched my mind, but I 
couldn't think of any logical explanation for this phenomenon other than a common ancestor. My 
verdict was swift: Darwin prevails. 

The real explanation, as it turns out, would have been far too bizarre for me to have even 
considered at the time. 

"When you saw these drawings," I said to Wells, "did you have the same reaction that I did- 
that this was strong evidence for Darwinism?" 

"Yes, I did, the first time I looked at them," Wells answered. "It wasn't until I was doing my 
graduate work that I began to compare actual photographs of embryos to what Haeckel had 

"And what did you find?" 

"I was stunned!" he said, his eyes widening. "They didn't fit. There was a big discrepancy. It 
was really hard to believe." 

As he described what had happened, I slowly shook my head in amazement at the 
implications of what he was saying. "I sort of rationalized by saying, well, textbooks tend to 
oversimplify things," he continued. "But over time it bothered me more and more." 

I was hungry for details. "What was it specifically that bothered you?" I asked. 

"There are three problems with these drawings," he said. "The first is that the similarities in 
the early stages were faked." 

He leveled the accusation without emotion in his voice, but nevertheless it was a stunning 
charge. "Faked?" I repeated. "Are you sure?" It seemed inconceivable that the books I had relied 
upon as a student could have so blatantly misled me. 

"You can call them fudged, distorted, misleading, but the bottom line is that they were faked," 
he replied. "Apparently in some cases Haeckel actually used the same woodcut to print embryos 
from different classes because he was so confident of his theory that he figured 

he didn't have to draw them separately. In other cases he doctored the drawings to make them 
look more similar than they really are. At any rate, his drawings misrepresent the embryos." 

"That's amazing!" I said. "How long has this been known?" "They were first exposed in the 
late 1860s, when his colleagues accused him of fraud." 

I cocked my head. "Wait a minute-I saw these drawings in books that I studied when I was a 
student in the 1960s and 70s more than a hundred years later. How is that possible?" 

"It's worse than that!" he declared. "They're still being used, even in upper-division textbooks 
on evolutionary biology. In fact, I analyzed and graded ten recent textbooks on how accurately 
they dealt with this topic. I had to give eight of them an F. Two others did only slightly better; I 
gave them a D." 

Anger was brewing inside of me. I had bought into Darwinism-and subsequently atheism- 
partially on the basis of drawings that scientists had known for a century were doctored. "This is 
really hard to believe," I said. "Doesn't it make you mad?" 

"Of course it does, because I was raised on this stuff too. I was misled," he said. "There was 
no excuse for it. When some biologists exposed this in an article a few years ago, the 
evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard complained that this was nothing new. He had 
known about it for twenty years! It was no secret to the experts. 

"But then why was it still in textbooks? Even Gould said textbook writers should be ashamed 
of the way the drawings had been mindlessly recycled for over a century. At least he was honest 
enough to call it what it was: "the academic equivalent of murder.' 


Wells's first disclosure about Haeckel's embryos was a stunner, but he had said there were a 
total of three problems with the drawings. I couldn't wait to hear him address the others. "What 
are the other two problems?" I asked. 

"The minor problem is that Haeckel cherry-picked his examples," Wells explained. "He only 
shows a few of the seven vertebrate classes. For example, his most famous rendition has eight 
columns. Four are mammals, but they're all placental mammals. There are two other kinds of 
mammals that he didn't show, which are different. The remaining four classes he showed- 
reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish-happen to be more similar than the ones he omitted. He used 
a salamander to represent amphibians instead of a frog, which looks very different. So he stacked 
the deck by picking representatives that came closest to fitting his idea-and then he went further 
by faking the similarities." 

That sounded like a pretty serious breach of scientific protocol to me. "If that's the minor 
problem," I said sarcastically, "then what's the major one?" 

Wells moved to the edge of his chair; clearly, this was tapping into his passion area. "To me, 
as an embryologist, the most dramatic problem is that what Haeckel claimed is the early stage of 
development is nothing of the sort. It's actually the midpoint of development," he explained. "If 
you go back to the earlier stages, the embryos look far more different from each other. But he 
deliberately omits the earlier stages altogether." 

I didn't immediately catch the full significance of this. "Why is that important?" 

"Remember Darwin claimed that because the embryos are most similar in their early stages, 
this is evidence of common ancestry. He thought that the early stage showed what the common 
ancestor looked like-sort of like a fish. 

"But embryologists talk about the "developmental hourglass,' which refers to the shape of an 
hourglass, with its width representing the measure of difference. You see, vertebrate embryos 
start out looking very different in the early cell division stages. The cell divisions in a mammal, 
for example, are radically different from those in any of the other classes. There's no possible 
way you could mix them up. In fact, it's extremely different within classes. The patterns are all 
over the place. 

"Then at the midpoint-which is what Haeckel claimed in his drawings was the early stage- 
the embryos become more similar, though nowhere near as much as Haeckel claimed. Then they 
become very different again." 

What a devastating critique! Haeckel's drawings, which had been published countless times 
over more than a century, had failed on three levels. I couldn't help but ask Wells: "If they're so 
misleading, then why did scientists continue to publish them for generation after generation of 

"One explanation that's often given," he replied, "is that although the drawings are false, 
they teach a concept that's basically true. Well, this is not true. Biologists know that embryos are 
not most similar in their earliest stages." 

With that, Wells picked up his book from the desk and flipped to the chapter on Haeckel. 
"Yet listen to this: one textbook shows Haeckel's drawings and says, "Early developmental stages 
of animals whose adult forms appear radically different are often surprisingly similar.' One 1999 

textbook has a slightly redrawn version of Haeckel's work and tells students, "Notice that the 
early embryonic stages of these vertebrates bear a striking resemblance to each other.' 

"Another textbook accompanies its drawings with the statement: v The early embryos of 
vertebrates strongly resemble one another.' Another says flatly: v One fact of embryology that 
pushed Darwin toward the idea of evolution is that the early embryos of most vertebrates closely 
resemble one another.' ' 

Wells snapped the book shut. "As I said, it's just false that embryos are most similar in their 
earliest development. Of course, some Darwinists try to get around Haeckel's problems by 
changing their tune. They use evolutionary theory to try to explain why the differences in the 
embryos are there. They can get quite elaborate," he said. 

"But that's doing the same thing that the theory-savers were doing with the Cambrian 
explosion. What was supposed to be primary evidence for Darwin's theory-the fossil or embryo 
evidence-turns out to be false, so they immediately say, well, we know the theory's true, so let's 
use the theory to explain why the evidence doesn't fit. 

"But then, where' s the evidence for the theory?" he demanded, sounding both frustrated and 
perturbed. "That's what I'd like to know. Why should I accept the theory as being true at all?" 


Wells's explanation made me feel foolish for ever having believed the embryo drawings I had 
seen as a student, much less the previous two icons that Wells had already deconstructed. I felt a 
little like the victim of a con game, blaming myself for being so uncritical and naive in accepting 
what evolution textbooks and biology teachers had told me. 

But Haekel's drawings weren't the only evidence I had been taught about universal ancestry. I 
also had been told a fascinating fact that helped convince me that our progenitors dwelled in the 
ocean: all human embryos, so my teachers said, go through a stage in which they actually 
develop gill-like structures on their necks. 

The encyclopedia I consulted as a youngster declared unequivocally that "the fetuses of 
mammals at one stage have gill slits which resemble those of fish," which to me was dramatic 
confirmation of our aquatic ancestry. 29 In 1996, Life magazine described how human embryos 
grow "something very much like gills," which is "some of the most compelling evidence of 
evolution." 30 Even some contemporary biology textbooks assert that human embryos have "gill 
pouches" or "gill slits." 31 

This colorful tidbit stayed with me from the first time I heard it. "Aren't gills strong evidence 
that our ancestors lived in the ocean?" I asked Wells. 

He sighed. Apparently, I was not the first person to raise this issue with him. "Yes, that's the 
standard argument, but-here," he said, gesturing toward me, "Look down toward your navel for a 
moment." Feeling a little awkward, I bowed my head. "Now, feel your neck," he said. "There are 
ridges in the skin, right?" I nodded. 

"Well, if you look at an embryo, it's doubled over. It has ridges in the neck. I'm not saying 
they're only skin folds; they're more complicated than that. But it's just an anatomical feature that 
grows out of the fact that this is how vertebrate embryos develop. 

"Let me be clear: they're not gills!" he stressed. "Even fish don't have gills at that stage. In 
humans, the ridges become one thing; in fish, they become gills. They're not even gill slits. To 
call them gilllike structures is merely reading evolutionary theory back into the evidence. They're 
never gill-like except in the superficial sense that they're lines in the neck area. As British 
embryologist Lewis Wolpert said, the resemblance is only illusory. 32 

"It's interesting how these misconceptions continue to thrive," he went on. "Evolutionists 
used to teach that famous phrase 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,' which is a fancy way of 
saying that embryos repeat their evolutionary history by passing through the adult forms of their 
ancestors as they develop. 

"But this theory has been widely dismissed for many decades, because it's empirically false. 
Even so, there are aspects of it that still come up. And "gill slits' would be a prime example of 


Earlier in our interview, Wells had brought up another category of evidence for universal 
ancestry: homology in vertebrate limbs. I remember as a student seeing the drawings depicting 
the similar bone structures in a bat's wing, a porpoise's flipper, a horse's leg, and a human's hand. 
I was told that even though these limbs have been adapted for different uses, their underlying 
similarity-or "homology"-is proof that they all share a common ancestor. 

Wells had briefly mentioned this phenomenon at the outset of our interview. "Isn't homology 
good evidence for Darwinism?" I asked. 

"Actually, these homologies were described and named by Darwin's predecessors-and they 
were not evolutionists," he replied. "Richard Owen, who was the most famous anatomist of 
Darwin's time, said they pointed toward a common archetype or design, not toward descent with 

"But," I protested, "the similarities are there-you can't deny that." 

"Yes, but the explanation can go either way: design or descent with modification. How do we 
determine which is true? Listen- similarity alone doesn't tell us. Look at Berra's Blunder." 

He threw out that comment assuming I would know what he was referring to. Although the 
term sounded vaguely familiar, I couldn't pinpoint what it meant. "Berra's Blunder?" I asked. 
"What's that?" 

"Phillip Johnson coined that term based on a book that was written by a biologist named 
Tim Berra in 1990. Berra compared the fossil record to a series of automobile models, saying 
that if you compare a 1953 and 1954 Corvette side by side, and then a 1954 and 1955 Corvette 
and so on, then it becomes obvious that there has been descent with modification. He said this is 
what paleontologists do with fossils, "and the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it can- 
not be denied by reasonable people.' 33 

"Far from demonstrating his point, the illustration shows that a designer could have been 
involved," Wells said. "These successive models of the Corvette are based on plans drawn up by 
engineers, so there's intelligence at work to guide and implement the process. If you wanted to 
demonstrate that the similar features resulted from a Darwinian process, you would have to show 
that once you somehow got an automobile, the natural forces of rust, wind, water, and gravity 
would turn one model into its successor. 

"The point I want to make is this: quite unintentionally, Berra had illustrated the fact that 
merely having a succession of similar forms does not provide its own explanation. A mechanism 
is needed. With the Corvette, that mechanism is human manufacturing." 

"What mechanism is proposed for Darwinism?" I asked. 

"One is called "common developmental pathways,' which means if you have two different 
animals with homologous features and you trace them back to the embryo, they would come 
from similar cells and processes. This happens to be mostly untrue. 

"I mentioned frogs earlier. There are some frogs that develop like frogs and other frogs that 

develop like birds, but they all look pretty much the same when they come out the other end. 
They're frogs. So the developmental pathway explanation is false-I don't know anybody who 
studies development and takes it seriously. 

"A more common explanation nowadays is that the homologies come from similar genes. In 
other words, the reason two features are homologous in two different animals would be that 
they're programmed by similar genes in the embryo. But it turns out this doesn't work very well, 
either. We know some cases where you have similar features that come from different genes, but 
we have lots and lots of cases where we have similar genes that give rise to very different 

"I'll give you an example: eyes. There's a gene that's similar in mice, octopuses, and fruit flies. 
If you look at a mouse eye and an octopus eye, there's a superficial similarity, which is odd 
because nobody thinks their common ancestor had an eye like that. What's more striking is if you 
look at a fruit fly's eye-a compound eye with multiple facets-it's totally different. Yet all three of 
these eyes depend on the same or very similar gene. 

"In fact, it's so similar that you can put the mouse gene into a fruit fly that's missing that gene 
and you can get the fruit fly to develop its eyes as it normally would. The genes are that similar. 
So neither the developmental pathway explanation nor the similar gene explanation really 
accounts for homology." 

I asked, "What's the answer, then?" 

Wells shrugged. "Frankly, it remains a mystery. If you read the literature on homology, the 
experts know it's a mystery. They may not give up Darwinism, but they know they haven't 
solved the problem. To me, if you haven't solved the problem of a mechanism, then you haven't 
distinguished between common descent and common design. It could be either one. The 
evidence isn't pointing one way or the other. 

"I think students deserve to know that scientists haven't resolved this problem. Instead, some 
textbooks simply define homology as similarity due to common ancestry. So the theory becomes 
true by definition. What the textbook is saying is that similarity due to common ancestry is due 
to common ancestry. And that's circular reasoning." 


Since Wells had brought up genetics, I was reminded of another question I wanted to raise 
with him about the theory of common descent. "What about recent genetic studies that show 
humans and apes share ninety-eight or ninety-nine percent of their genes?" I asked. "Isn't that 
evidence that we share a common ancestor?" 

"If you assume, as neo-Darwinism does, that we are products of our genes, then you're saying 
that the dramatic differences between us and chimpanzees are due to two percent of our genes," 
he replied. "The problem is that the so-called body-building genes are in the ninety-eight percent. 
The two percent of genes that are different are really rather trivial genes that have little to do 
with anatomy. So the supposed similarity of human and chimpanzee DNA is a problem for neo- 
Darwinism right there. 

"Second, it's not surprising that when you look at two organisms that are similar 
anatomically, you often find they're similar genetically. Not always; there's a striking 
discordance with some organisms. But does this prove common ancestry?" 

He shook his head as he answered his own question: "No, it's just as compatible with 
common design as it is with common ancestry. A designer might very well decide to use 
common building materials to create different organisms, dust as builders use the same 

materials-steel girders, rivets, and so forth-to build different bridges that end up looking very 
dissimilar from one another." 

As I mentally wrestled with this concept, I stood to stretch my legs. Walking over to the 
window, I looked down at cars backed up along the busy street and people hustling down the 
sidewalks on either side. A rudimentary illustration popped into my mind. 

"Let me see if I understand you. If I were to chemically analyze that street and sidewalk," I 
said, pointing out the window, "I'd find they would be identical or very similar. They'd both be 
made of concrete. But that wouldn't mean that they shared a common ancestorsay, a path for a 
golf cart-that got wider and more substantial over millions of years. A better explanation would 
be that there was a common designer who decided to use basically the same materials to con- 
struct similar, but functionally different, structures." 

Wells thought about my example for a moment. "Essentially, that's right," he said. "It sounds 
ridiculous to suggest a golf path could evolve into a sidewalk and street, but it's not any more 
outlandish than some of the claims for biological evolution. The important point is that similarity 
by itself doesn't distinguish between design and Darwinism." 

We had strayed from Haeckel's embryos, but the issues were the same: is there persuasive 
evidence through embryology or homology that all living creatures evolved over time from an 
ancient progenitor? I concluded that Darwin was wrong: examining embryos of different 
creatures in their early stages does not yield support for his theory. And the undeniable 
similarities between some vertebrate limbs certainly doesn't distinguish between design or 
descent as a cause. Once again, the persuasive power of the evolutionary icons had been deflated. 
I glanced at my watch; if I were to catch my plane back to Los Angeles, I would need to turn 
to the last of the four evolutionary images from my days as a student: the awe-inspiring fossil of 
a prehistoric creature that once effectively silenced many of Darwin's critics. 


When Darwin's The Origin of Species was published in 1859, he conceded that "the most 
obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory" was that the fossil record 
failed to back up his evolutionary hypothesis. 

"Why," he asked, "if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine 
gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?" He attributed the 
problem to the fossil record being incomplete and predicted that future discoveries would vindi- 
cate his theory. 

As if on cue, two years later scientists unearthed the archaeopteryx (pronounced ar-key-OPT 
er-icks) in a German quarry. Darwin's supporters were thrilled- surely this missing link between 
reptiles and modern birds, unveiled so promptly after the appearance of Darwin's book, would 
just be the first of many future fossil discoveries that would validate Darwin's claims. 

Like many people, including the scientist who "actually fell upon his knees in awe" when he 
first glimpsed the archaeopteryx at the National History Museum in England,34 I was enthralled 
by the dramatic pictures of the prehistoric creature. I was under the impression that it was 
featured in my books on evolution because it is just one example of many transitional links that 
have been found. But I was wrong. 

Since that time I have come to learn that the fossil record has utterly let Darwin down. 
Michael Denton, in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, summarized the bleak situation this 

... [T]he universal experience of paleontology ... [is that] while the rocks have continually 

yielded new and exciting and even bizarre forms of life ... what they have never yielded is 
any of Darwin's myriads of transitional forms. Despite the tremendous increase in 
geological activity in every corner of the globe and despite the discovery of many strange 
and hitherto unknown forms, the infinitude of connecting links has still not been dis- 
covered and the fossil record is about as discontinuous as it was when Darwin was writing 
the Origin. The intermediates have remained as elusive as ever and their absence remains, 
a century later, one of the most striking characteristics of the fossil record. 35 

As a result, said Denton, the fossil record "provides a tremendous challenge to the notion of 
organic evolution." 36 But what about the archaeopteryx? The fossils of this magnificent creature, 
its detailed image pressed into fine-grained limestone, still seemed to stand in stark contrast to 
this trend. 

"Doesn't archaeopteryx fill the gap between reptiles and modern birds?" I asked Wells. 

"There are several problems with that," came his reply. "Does it show Darwinian evolution? 
Well, no, for the same reason that the Corvettes don't illustrate Darwinian evolution. We would 
need more than an intermediate form to show that; we would need to know how you get from 
one to the other. 

"The question is, do you get from a reptile to a bird-which is an astonishingly huge step-by 
some totally natural process or does this require the intervention of a designer? An 
archaeopteryx, as beautiful as it is, doesn't show us one way or the other. Besides, we see strange 
animals around today, like the duck-billed platypus, which nobody considers transitional but 
which has characteristics of different classes." 

"But the archaeopteryx is a half -bird, half-reptile, right?" 

"No, not even close," he insisted. "It's a bird with modern feathers, and birds are very different 
from reptiles in many important ways-their breeding system, their bone structure, their lungs, 
their distribution of weight and muscles. It's a bird, that's clear-not part bird and part reptile. 

"But there are more interesting parts to the archaeopteryx story," he added. "The main one 
comes from a branch of evolutionary theory called cladistics. This takes Darwinian theory to the 
extreme. Cladists define homology, or physical similarities, as being due to common ancestry. 
Then they say, well, the main way we can group animals in the evolutionary tree is through 
homologies, which is already a bit of a circular argument. When they go back into the fossil 
record, they assume birds came from reptiles by descent, and they look for reptiles that are more 
bird-like in their skeletal structure." 

"Where do they find them?" I asked. 

Wells smiled. "That's the fascinating part," he said. "It turns out they find them millions of 
years after archaeopteryx! So here we have archaeopteryx, which is undeniably a bird, and yet 
the fossils that look most like the reptilian ancestors of birds occur tens of millions of years later 
in the fossil record. The missing link is still missing! Now evolutionists are stuck looking for 
another theoretical ancestor to try to fill the gaps, but it hasn't been found." 

"So the archaeopteryx is not an ancestor of modern birds?" 

"Not at all. Paleontologists pretty much agree on that. There are too many structural 
differences. Larry Martin, a paleontologist from the University of Kansas, said clearly in 1985 
that the archaeopteryx is not an ancestor of any modern birds; instead, it's a member of a totally 
extinct group of birds." 3 ' 

So much for the power of archaeopteryx to authenticate Darwin's claims. Even ardent 
evolutionist Pierre Lecomte du Nouy agrees: 

We are not even authorized to consider the exceptional case of the archaeopteryx as a 
true link. By link, we mean a necessary stage of transition between classes such as 
reptiles and birds, or between smaller groups. An animal displaying characters belonging 
to two different groups cannot be treated as a true link as long as the intermediary stages 
have not been found, and as long as the mechanisms of transition remain unknown.'" 

Yet even if archaeopteryx had turned out to be a transitional creature, it would have been but 
a whisper of protest to the fossil record's deafening roar against classical Darwinism. 

"If we are testing Darwinism rather than merely looking for a confirming example or two," 
Phillip Johnson said, "then a single good candidate for ancestor status is not enough to save a 
theory that posits a worldwide history of continual evolutionary transformation. "39 


Paleontologists, however, have been on a frenzy to try to locate an actual reptilian ancestor 
for birds. Driven by an all-consuming commitment to evolutionary theory, their zeal has resulted 
in some recent embarrassments for science. Wells was more than willing to regale me with some 

"A few years ago the National Geographic Society announced that a fossil had been 
purchased at an Arizona mineral show that turned out to be "the missing link between terrestrial 
dinosaurs and birds that could actually fly,'" he said. "It certainly looked that way. They called it 
the archaeoraptor, and it had the tail of a dinosaur and the forelimbs of a bird. National 
Geographic magazine published an article in 1999 that said there's now evidence that feathered 
dinosaurs were ancestors of the first bird." 
"That sounds pretty convincing," I said. 

"Well, the problem was that it was a fake!" Wells said. "A Chinese paleontologist proved that 
someone had glued a dinosaur tail to a primitive bird. He created it to resemble just what the 
scientists had been looking for. There was a firestorm of criticism-the curator of birds at the 
Smithsonian charged that the Society had become aligned with "zealous scientists' who were 
"highly biased proselytizers of the faith' that birds evolved from dinosaurs." 

Then Wells made a blanket statement that struck me at the time as being too cynical. "Fakes 
are coming out of these fossil beds all the time," he said, "because the fossil dealers know there's 
big money in it. 

I remained skeptical about that charge until I subsequently read an interview with 
ornithologist Alan Feduccia, an evolutionary biologist at the University of North Carolina at 
Chapel Hill. When a reporter for Discover magazine raised the archaeoraptor fraud, Feduccia 

Archaeoraptor is just the tip of the iceberg. There are scores of fake fossils out there, and 
they have cast a dark shadow over the whole field. When you go to these fossil shows, it's 
difficult to tell which ones are faked and which ones are not. I have heard there is a fake- 
fossil factory in northeast China, in Liaoning Province, near the deposits where many of 
these recent alleged feathered dinosaurs were found. 40 

Asked what would motivate such fraud, Fedducia replied: "Money. The Chinese fossil trade 
has become a big business. These fossil forgeries have been sold on the black market for years 
now, for huge sums of money. Anyone who can produce a good fake stands to 
profit." 41 

Other outlandish incidents occurred at about the same time the archaeoraptor fraud was 

coming to light. Wells was attending a conference in Florida, where the star of the show was a 
fossil called bambiraptor, a chicken-sized dinosaur with supposedly bird-like characteristics. 

"Again, paleontologists called it the missing link," Wells told me. "And, sure enough, the 
reconstructed animal on display had feathers or feather-like structures on it. The problem was 
that no feathers were ever found with the fossil! But because scientists said they should be there, 
they were added. And the dinosaur looked even more like a bird because the guy who did the 
reconstruction used the same artificial eyes that taxidermists put in stuffed eagles." While there 
was a brief disclaimer, he added, it was rather cryptically written. 

"Then a group of molecular biologists at the conference reported finding bird DNA in 
dinosaur bones that were sixty-five million years old. Now, that would be pretty exciting! They 
suggested that this was genetic evidence that birds are closely related to dinosaurs. 

"The problem is that the bones from which the DNA was supposedly extracted are from a 
branch of dinosaurs that had nothing to do with bird ancestry. Furthermore, the DNA they found 
was not ninety or ninety-nine percent similar to birds-it was one-hundred-percent turkey DNA! 
Even chickens don't have DNA that's one hundred percent similar to turkey DNA. Only turkeys 
have one-hundred-percent turkey DNA. 

"So these people said they found turkey DNA in a dinosaur bone-and it actually got 
published in Science magazine! This is just incredible to me! The headline in the magazine said 
with a straight face: 'Dinos and Turkeys: Connected by DNA?'" 

That last story begged the next question: "How in the world do you explain how the turkey 
DNA got in there?" 

Shaking his head, Wells said, "Maybe somebody dropped a turkey sandwich in the dig or 
there was lab contamination. If I had reported something like this in my grad student research, I 
would have been laughed out of the room. They would have told me, v Go do the test again-it's 

"But for goodness sake, this was taken seriously enough to publish it in Science! Even the 
scientist who reported the finding admitted he was "quite skeptical' of his own work at this point- 
and yet people were willing to seize on it to support their belief in Darwinian theory. 42 


I couldn't end my conversation without touching on one more icon related to the fossil 
evidence: the pictures I've seen from time to time of a parade of ape-like creatures that morph 
into modern human beings. In fact, this illustration is emblazoned across the cover of a 1998 
edition of The Origin of Species. 43 For many, this "ultimate icon" is not just a theory, but an 
established fact. 

"If you go back far enough," legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite intoned in a documentary 
on evolution, "we and the chimps share a common ancestor. My father's father's father's father, 
going back maybe a half-million generations-about five million years ago-was an ape." 44 

That kind of certainty about human evolution was engendered in me as a youngster, when I 
would devour my World Book Encyclopedia. One of my favorite entries was "Prehistoric Man," 
where I would linger for hours, fascinated by the part- ape, part-human nicknamed "Java man." 
Apparently, I wasn't the only member of this missing link's fan club. Said the author of a book on 

Java man is like an old friend. We learned about him in grade school.... In fact, the vast 
majority of people who believe in human evolution were probably first sold on it by this 

convincing salesman. Not only is he the best-known human fossil, he is one of the only 
human fossils most people know. 45 

World Book's two-page spread highlighted a parade of prehistoric men. Second in line was a 
lifelike bust of Java man from the American Museum of Natural History, accompanied by an 
outline showing his profile. With his sloping forehead, heavy brow, jutting jaw, receding chin 
and bemused expression, he was exactly what a blend of ape and man should look like. For me, 
studying his face and looking into his eyes helped cement the reality of human evolution. 

The encyclopedia confidently described how Dutch scientist Eugene Dubois, excavating on 
an Indonesian Island in 1891 and 1892, "dug some bones from a riverbank." Java man, which he 
dated back half a million years, "represents a stage in the development of modern man from a 
smaller-brained ancestor." 46 He was, according to Dubois, the missing link between apes and 
humans. 47 

And I believed it all. I was blithely ignorant, however, of the full Java man story. "What is not 
so well known is that Java man consists of nothing more than a skullcap, a femur (thigh bone), 
three teeth, and a great deal of imagination," one author would later write. 48 In other words, the 
lifelike depiction of Java man, which had so gripped me when I was young, was little more than 
speculation fueled by evolutionary expectations of what he should have looked like if Darwinism 
were true. 

As a youngster beginning to form my opinions about human evolution, I wasn't aware of what 
I have more recently discovered: that Dubois' shoddy excavation would have disqualified the 
fossil from consideration by today's standards. Or that the femur apparently didn't really belong 
with the skullcap. Or that the skull cap, according to prominent Cambridge University anatomist 
Sir Arthur Keith, was distinctly human and reflected a brain capacity well within the range of 
humans living today. 49 Or that a 342-page scientific report from a fact-finding expedition of 
nineteen evolutionists demolished Dubois' claims and concluded that Java man played no part in 
human evolution. 30 

In short, Java man was not an ape-man as I had been led to believe, but he was "a true 
member of the human family." 51 This was a fact apparently lost on Time magazine, which as 
recently as 1994 treated Java man as a legitimate evolutionary ancestor. 52 


Wells listened intently as I described to him how my exposure to misinformation about Java 
man had paved the way for my eventual wholehearted embrace of Darwinian evolution. The 
factors that contributed to that debacle, he pointed out, are still quite relevant. 

"One of the major problems with paleoanthropology is that compared to all the fossils we 
have, only a minuscule number are believed to be of creatures ancestral to humans," Wells said. 
"Often, it's just skull fragments or teeth. 

"So this gives a lot of elasticity in reconstructing the specimens to fit evolutionary theory. 
For example, when National Geographic hired four artists to reconstruct a female figure from 
seven fossil bones found in Kenya, they came up with quite different interpretations. One looked 
like a modern African- American woman; another like a werewolf; another had a heavy, gorilla- 
like brow; and another had a missing forehead and jaws that looked a bit like a beaked dinosaur. 

"Of course, this lack of fossil evidence also makes it virtually impossible to reconstruct 
supposed relationships between ancestors and descendents. One anthropologist likened the task 
to trying to reconstruct the plot of War and Peace by using just thirteen random pages from the 
book." 53 

Wells reached over again to pick up Icons of Evolution. "I thought Henry Gee, the chief 
science writer for Nature, was quite candid in talking about this issue in 1999," Wells said as he 
searched for the right page. "Gee wrote, "The intervals of time that separate fossils are so huge 
that we cannot say anything definite about their possible connection through ancestry and 

"He called each fossil v an isolated point, with no knowable connection to any other given 
fossil, and all float around in an overwhelming sea of gaps.' In fact, he said that all the fossil 
evidence for human evolution "between ten and five million years ago-several thousand 
generations of living creatures-can be fitted into a small box.' 

"Consequently, he concluded that the conventional picture of human evolution is v a 
completely human invention created after the fact, shaped to accord with human prejudices.' 
Then he said quite bluntly: v To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not 
a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a 
bedtime story-amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific.'" 

Wells put down the book. "In other words, you're not going to reconstruct human 
evolutionary history just based on examining the few fossils we have," he continued. "The only 
reason anyone thinks the evidence supports human evolution is because Darwinism is assumed 
to be true on other grounds. If it is, then it makes perfect sense to extrapolate that to human 
history, which is what Darwin did in his book The Descent of Man. 

"But what if the other evidence for Darwinism is faulty- which, in fact, it is? You and I didn't 
even go into the major flaws with a whole host of other evolution icons that are used to teach 
students today. There's no shortage of books debunking Darwin. And without any compelling 
evidence for Darwinism in these areas, the whole question of human evolution is up for grabs. 

"Instead, Darwinists assume the story of human life is an evolutionary one, and then they 
plug the fossils into a preexisting narrative where they seem to fit. The narrative can take several 
forms depending on one's biases. As one anthropologist said, the process is "both political and 
subjective' to the point where he suggested that 'paleoanthropology has the form but not the 
substance of a science.'" 

"In fact, a paleoanthropologist named Misia Landau wrote a book in which she talked about 
the similarities between the story of human evolution and old-fashioned folk tales. She 
concluded that many classic texts in the field were v determined as much by traditional narrative 
frameworks as by material evidence' and that these themes v far exceed what can be inferred from 
the study of fossils alone.'" 

I took a few moments to soak in what Wells had said. He was right-certainly Java man's fall 
from grace is instructive. It highlights how many people, including myself, became adherents of 
Darwinism through fossils or other evidence that later discoveries have either undermined or 
disproved. But the damage has already been done in many cases-the student, unaware of these 
subsequent findings, has already graduated into full-fledged naturalism. 

As I leaf back through my time-worn copies of the World Book from my childhood, I can 
now see how faulty science and Darwinian presuppositions forced my former friend Java man 
into an evolutionary parade that's based much more on imagination than reality. Unfortunately, 
he's not the only example of that phenomenon, which is rife to the point of rendering the record 
of supposed human evolution totally untrustworthy. 

"There is no encompassing theory of [human] evolution," conceded Berkeley evolutionary 
biologist F. Clark Howell. "Alas, there never really has been." 57 


At the end of our discussion about the fossil record, I reflected back on the four images that 
had paved the way for my descent into atheism. I could only shake my head. 

I was left with an origin-of-life experiment whose results have been rendered meaningless; a 
Tree of Life that had been uprooted by the Biological Big Bang of the Cambrian explosion; 
doctored embryo drawings that don't reflect reality; and a fossil record that stubbornly refuses to 
yield the transitional forms crucial to evolutionary theory. Doubts piled on doubts. 

Are these icons the sole evidence for Darwinism? Of course not. But their fate is illustrative 
of what happens time after time when macroevolution is put under the microscope of scrutiny. 
As I continued to investigate the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of evolutionary 
theory, in a long-standing probe that goes far beyond my encounter with Wells, I kept getting 
the same kind of results. No wonder a hundred scientists signed a public dissent from 

Yet every time an icon of evolution is discredited, Darwinists claim with religious zeal that 
it was never really the whole story in the first place and insist that new findings really do 
buttress macroevolution. New narratives are created; new stories are told. The theory of 
evolution, now unsupported by the original icon, is never questioned; instead, it's used afresh to 
justify a redesigned model. 

For instance, several years ago Gould and a colleague proposed a new hypothesis, called 
"punctuated equilibrium," in a desperate bid to explain away the fossil gaps. They suggested that 
radically new species somehow managed to develop rapidly among isolated populations, 
conveniently leaving behind no fossils to document the process. When these new creatures 
rejoined the larger, central populations, this resulted in the preserving of fossils that suggested 
the sudden appearance of new species. This model has been roundly criticized, and rightly so, for 
creating far more questions than answers. 58 In the end, Darwinism has remained a philosophy 
still in search of convincing empirical data to back it up. 

Similarly, neo-Darwinists have proudly displayed four-winged fruit flies as evidence that 
small genetic changes can yield major physiological differences in organisms. As Wells reveals 
in his book, however, these fruit flies must be carefully bred from three artificially maintained 
mutant strains-an exceedingly unlikely circumstance in nature. 

What's more, the males have difficulty mating, and because the extra wings are nonfunctional, 
these mutant flies are seriously handicapped. "As evidence for evolution," he said, "the four- 
winged fruit fly is no better than a two-headed calf in a circus sideshow." 39 

Once again, closer investigation revealed that even the latest icons cannot buttress the sagging 
credibility of evolutionary theory. As for me, I finally came to the point where I realized that I 
just didn't have enough faith to maintain my belief in Darwinism. The evidence, in my 
estimation, was simply unable to support its grandest and most sweeping claims. 


Before I packed my belongings and grabbed a cab for the airport, I wanted to ask Wells a few 
closing questions about the overall case for Darwinian evolution. "After years of studying this," I 
said, "when you take the most current scientific evidence into consideration, what is your 
conclusion about Darwin's theory?" 

Wells's answer began as soon as the words left my mouth. "My conclusion is that the case for 
Darwinian evolution is bankrupt," he said firmly. "The evidence for Darwinism is not only 
grossly inadequate, it's systematically distorted. I'm convinced that sometime in the not-too- 

distant future-I don't know, maybe twenty or thirty years from now-people will look back in 
amazement and say, v How could anyone have believed this?' Darwinism is merely materialistic 
philosophy masquerading as science, and people are recognizing it for what it is. 

"Now, having said that," he continued, "I still see room for some evolutionary processes in 
limited instances. But saying evolution works in some cases is far from showing that it accounts 
for everything." 

I asked, "If macroevolution has failed to prove itself to be a viable theory, then where do you 
believe the evidence of science is pointing?" 

There was no equivocation in Wells's voice. Speaking with conviction, he said: "I believe 
science is pointing strongly toward design. To me, as a scientist, the development of an embryo 
cries out, v Design!' The Cambrian explosion-the sudden appearance of complex life, with no 
evidence of ancestors-is more consistent with design than evolution. Homology, in my opinion, 
is more compatible with design. The origin of life certainly cries out for a designer. None of 
these things make as much sense from a Darwinian perspective as they do from a design 

"Let me get this straight," I said. "You're not merely saying that the evidence for evolution is 
weak and therefore there must be an intelligent designer. You're suggesting there is also 
affirmative evidence for a designer." 

"I am," he relied. "However, the two are connected, because one of the main functions of 
Darwinian theory is to try to make design unnecessary. This is what you experienced as you 
became an atheist. This is what I experienced. So showing that the arguments for evolution are 
weak certainly opens the door to design. 

"And then," he said, "when you analyze all of the most current affirmative evidence from 
cosmology, physics, astronomy, biology, and so forth-well, I think you'll discover that the 
positive case for an intelligent designer becomes absolutely compelling." 

I stood and shook Wells' hand. "That," I said, "is what I'm going to find out." 


The plane ride through the black velvet sky over the Pacific Coasi was exceptionally smooth 
that evening, and I closed my eyes as 1 reclined my seat as far as it would go. I felt satisfied by 
my interview with Wells and was anxious to determine whether the most un-to-date scientific 
evidence supports the existence of the intelligent designer he had talked about. Still, though, 
some pesky questions continued to bother me. 

I remained troubled by the intersection of science and faith. I needed to resolve whether these 
two domains are destined to be at war with each other, as some people claim. Can a scientific 
person legitimately entertain the idea of the supernatural? How much can empirical data tell us 
about the divine? Should scientists merely stick to their test tubes and let the theologians ponder 
God? Should pastors be allowed to poke their nose into the research laboratory? Can science and 
faith ever really be partners in pursuit of the ultimate answers of life? 

I knew I needed to get some answers to those questions before I could go any further. I pulled 
the blanket up to my neck and decided to get some sleep. Tomorrow, I'd be planning another 


More Resources on This Topic 

Denton, Michael. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Bethesda, Md.: Adler & Adler, 1986. 
Hanegraaff, Hank. The Face that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution. Nashville: Word, 

Johnson, Phillip. Darwin on Trial. Downers Grove, 111.: InterVarsity Press, second edition, 

Wells, Jonathan. Icons of Evolution. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2000. 


/ am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive 
dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible 
for an intelligent person to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to 
be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment. 

Physicist Steven Weinberg,' 

Science and religion ... are friends, not foes, in the common quest for knowledge. Some 
people may find this surprising, for there 's a feeling throughout our society that religious 
belief is outmoded, or downright impossible, in a scientific age. I don't agree. In fact, I'd 
go so far as to say that if people in this socalled "scientific age " knew a bit more about 
science than many of them actually do, they'd find it easier to share my view. 

Physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne 2 

Allan Rex Sandage, the greatest observational cosmologist in the world-who has deciphered 
the secrets of the stars, plumbed the mysteries of quasars, revealed the age of globular clusters, 
pinpointed the distances of remote galaxies, and quantified the universe's expansion through his 
work at the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories prepared to step onto the platform at a 
conference in Dallas. 

Few scientists are as widely respected as this one-time protege to legendary astronomer 
Edwin Hubble. Sandage has been showered with prestigious honors from the American 
Astronomical Society, the Swiss Physical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the 
Swedish Academy of Sciences, receiving astronomy's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. The New 
York Times dubbed him the "Grand Old Man of Cosmology." 

As he approached the stage at this 1985 conference on science and religion, there seemed to 
be little doubt where he would sit. The discussion would be about the origin of the universe, and 
the panel would be divided among those scientists who believed in God and those who didn't, 
with each viewpoint having its own side of the stage. 

Many of the attendees probably knew that the ethnically Jewish Sandage had been a virtual 
atheist even as a child. Many others undoubtedly believed that a scientist of his stature must 
surely be skeptical about God. As Newsweek put it, "The more deeply scientists see into the 
secrets of the universe, you'd expect, the more God would fade away from their hearts and 
minds." 3 So Sandage's seat among the doubters was a given. 

Then the unexpected happened. Sandage set the room abuzz by turning and taking a chair 
among the theists. Even more dazzling, in the context of a talk about the Big Bang and its 
philosophical implications, he disclosed publicly that he had decided to become a Christian at 

age fifty. 

The Big Bang, he told the rapt audience, was a supernatural event that cannot be explained 
within the realm of physics as we know it. Science had taken us to the First Event, but it can't 
take us further to the First Cause. The sudden emergence of matter, space, time, and energy 
pointed to the need for some kind of transcendence. 

"It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated 
than can be explained by science," he would later tell a reporter. "It was only through the 
supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence." 4 

Sitting among the Dallas crowd that day, astounded by what he was hearing from Sandage, 
was a young geophysicist who had dropped by the conference almost by accident. Stephen 
Meyer had become a Christian through a philosophical quest for the meaning of life, but he 
hadn't really explored the issue of whether science could provide evidential support for his faith. 

Now here was not only Sandage but also prominent Harvard astrophysicist Owen Gingerich 
concluding that the Big Bang seemed to fit best into a theistic worldview. Later came a session 
on the origin of life, featuring Dean Kenyon, a biophysicist from San Francisco State University, 
who had co-authored an influential book asserting that the emergence of life might have been 
"biochemically predestined," because of an inherent attraction between amino acids.' This 
seemed to be the most promising explanation for the conundrum of how the first living cell could 
somehow self-assemble from nonliving matter. 

To Meyer's surprise, Kenyon stepped to the podium and actually repudiated the conclusions of 
his own book, declaring that he had come to the point where he was critical of all naturalistic 
theories of origins. Due to the immense molecular complexity of the cell and the information- 
bearing properties of DNA, Kenyon now believed that the best evidence pointed toward a 
designer of life. 

Instead of science and religion being at odds, Meyer heard specialists at the highest levels of 
achievement who said they were theistsnot in spite of the scientific evidence but because of it. 
As Sandage would say, "Many scientists are now driven to faith by their very work." 6 

Meyer was intrigued. It seemed to him that the theists had the intellectual initiative in each of 
the three issues discussed at the conference-the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the 
nature of human consciousness. Even skeptics on the panels conceded the shortcomings of 
naturalistic explanations. Their main response was only to challenge the theists to provide 
"scientific answers" instead of merely invoking the idea of intelligent design. 

That objection didn't make much sense to Meyer. "Maybe the world looks designed," he 
mused, "because it really is designed!" 

As he walked away from the conference, Meyer was brimming with excitement over what he 
had experienced. Despite his background in science, he simply had been unaware of the powerful 
scientific findings that were supporting belief in God. All of this, he decided, was worth a much 
more thorough investigation. 

He didn't know it at the time, but his life's mission had just crystallized. 


Already having earned degrees in physics and geology, Meyer went on to receive his master's 
degree in the history and philosophy of science at prestigious Cambridge University in England, 
where he focused on the history of molecular biology, the history of physics, and evolutionary 
theory. He then obtained his doctorate from Cambridge, where his dissertation analyzed the 
scientific and methodological issues in origin-of-life biology-a field he first got excited about 

when he heard Kenyon speak at the Dallas conference. 

In the past fifteen years, Meyer has become one of the most knowledgeable and compelling 
voices in the burgeoning Intelligent Design movement. He has contributed to numerous books- 
including Darwinism, Design and Public Education; Mere Creation: Science, Faith and 
Intelligent Design; Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design; Science and 
Christianity: Four Views; The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent 
Creator; Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe; The History of Science and Religion 
in the Western Tradition; Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins; 
Darwinism: Science or Philosophy; and Facets of Faith and Science, and is currently finishing 
books on DNA and the Cambrian explosion. 

He has spoken at symposia at Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, Baylor, the University of Texas, and 
elsewhere; debated skeptics, including Michael Shermer, editor of The Skeptical Inquirer; 
written for magazines ranging from Origins and Design (where he's an associate editor) to The 
Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies to National Review; appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 
Washington Times, Chicago Tribune, and a host of other newspapers; and faced off with 
Darwinists on National Public Radio, PBS, and network television. 

When I flew into snowy Spokane, Washington, to interview Meyer at Whitworth College, 
where he was an associate professor of philosophy, I wasn't aware that he was in the midst of 
telling his colleagues that he would be leaving soon to become director and senior fellow at the 
Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. His impending departure was 
a poignant time for Meyer, since he had spent more than a decade as one of the most popular 
professors at the school. 

To steal some time alone, we commandeered a nondescript off campus office, where 
decorating was an apparent afterthought, and sat down in facing chairs for what would turn out 
to be virtually an entire day of animated, rapid-fire conversation. In fact, the full transcript of our 
discussion would top a whopping thirty thousand words-a small book in itself! 

At one point, Meyer said, "I was once tested for hyperactivity as a kid. Can you imagine?" 
Yes, I could. Dressed in a dark blue suit, patterned tie, woolly gray socks, and brown Doc Martin 
shoes, the lanky Meyer was crackling with energy, speaking enthusiastically in quick bursts of 
words. His wispy brown hair spilled down onto his forehead, giving him a youthful appearance, 
but his eyebrows were furrowed in intensity. 

His students sometimes faulted him for an absentminded professor's lack of classroom 
organization, but he made up for it with his infectious passion and disarming sincerity. When he 
answered my questions, it was in a thorough, systematic, and structured way, almost as if he were 
reading off invisible note cards. He came off as being brilliant, articulate, and driven. 

After swapping some personal stories, we zeroed in on the issue of science and faith. His 
perspective, not surprisingly, was vastly different from the one I had when I began studying 
Darwinism in school. 


"We live in a technological culture where many people believe science trumps all other forms 
of knowledge," I said to Meyer. "For example, philosopher J. P. Moreland described meeting an 
engineer who was completing his doctorate in physics. "According to him,' Moreland said, "only 
science is rational; only science achieves truth. Everything else is mere belief and opinion. He 
went on to say that if something cannot be quantified or tested by the scientific method ... it 

cannot be true or rational." Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin claimed science is v the only 
begetter of truth. '$ Do you agree with those perspectives?" 

"No, I don't," came Meyer's reply. "Ironically, to say that science is the only begetter of truth 
is self-contradicting, because that statement in itself cannot be tested by the scientific method. 
It's a selfdefeating philosophical assumption. 

"Beyond that," he continued, "while I certainly respect science, I don't believe scientific 
knowledge necessarily takes precedence over other things that we know. For instance, Moreland 
has argued that there are some things we know more certainly through introspection than we 
know from the sciences. I know I have free will on the basis of my introspection, and no studies 
in the social sciences will convince me otherwise." 

He motioned toward a light switch on the wall. "I know I can turn that switch on, and I refute 
those who say I was determined thus," he said, leaning over to turn on the light. "In addition, 
history can tell us much, even though we can't test it by repeated experiment. 

"Now, there's no question that science does teach us many important things about the natural 
world. But the real question is, v Do these things point to anything beyond themselves?' I think 
the answer is yes. Science teaches us many true things, and some of those true things point 
toward God." 

I quickly interrupted. "On the contrary," I said, "when I learned about Darwinism as a 
student, I was convinced that science and faith were at odds-and that science definitely had the 
edge in the credibility department. What would you say to someone who believes that science 
and Christianity are destined to be at war?" 

"Well, that's certainly one way that people have conceptualized the relationship between 
science and faith," he said. "Some claim science and faith are fundamentally at odds. Others have 
said science and faith represent two separate and distinct realms that don't and can't interact with 
each other. 

"However, I personally take a third approach, which is that scientific evidence actually 
supports theistic belief. In fact, across a wide range of the sciences, evidence has come to light in 
the last fifty years which, taken together, provides a robust case for theism. Only theism can 
provide an intellectually satisfying causal explanation for all of this evidence." 

"For instance?" 

"For instance," he continued, "if it's true there's a beginning to the universe, as modern 
cosmologists now agree, then this implies a cause that transcends the universe. If the laws of 
physics are fine-tuned to permit life, as contemporary physicists are discovering, then perhaps 
there's a designer who fine-tuned them. If there's information in the cell, as molecular biology 
shows, then this suggests intelligent design. To get life going in the first place would have 
required biological information; the implications point beyond the material realm to a prior 
intelligent cause. 

"Those are just three examples," he concluded. "And that's just the beginning." 


"Isn't it dangerous to mix science and faith that way?" I asked. "A lot of scientists follow the 
lead of the late Stephen Jay Gould in saying that science and faith occupy distinctly different 
'magisteria' or domains. 

"He called this philosophy NOMA, which is short for 'nonoverlapping magisteria.' He said: 
v The net of science covers the empirical universe ... [while] the net of religion extends over 
questions of 

moral meaning and value.' What's wrong with having that kind of strong dividing line between 
the hard facts of science and the soft faith of religion?" 

"I think NOMA is partially true," Meyer said-a concession that surprised me a bit. "There are 
domains of science that are metaphysically neutral. They answer questions like: "How many 
elements are in the periodic table?' Or v What is the mathematical equation that describes 
gravitational attraction?' Or "How does nature ordinarily behave under a given set of conditions?' 
Questions of this sort don't affect big worldview issues one way or the other. Some people use 
Galileo's old aphorism-'Science tells you how the heavens go, and the Bible tells you how to go 
to heaven.'" 

I jumped in. "That sounds trite, but it does make some sense." 

"Of course," he said. "There is a sense in which science and religion do have different objects 
of interest and focus, like the nature of the Trinity on one hand, and what are the elementary 
particles present at the Big Bang on the other hand. 

"However, there are other scientific questions that bear directly on the great worldview issues. 
For instance, the question of origins. If fully naturalistic models are correct, then theism becomes 
an unnecessary hypothesis. It's in these instances where science and metaphysics intersect-where 
worldview questions are at stake-that it's impossible to impose the NOMA principle. That's 
because what science discovers will inevitably have implications for these larger worldview 
questions. The only real way to keep the two separate is to subtract from the claims of one or the 

"You see, NOMA says science is the realm of facts, and religion is the realm of morality and 
faith. The essential problem is that biblical religion makes very specific claims about facts. It 
makes claims about the universe having a beginning, about God playing a role in creation, about 
humans having a certain kind of nature, and about historical events that are purported to have 
happened in time and space. 

"Let's just take the historic Christian creed: V I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of 
heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy 
Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; 
the third day he rose again from the dead.' 

"Well, Pontius Pilate is situated historically in Palestine in the first century. A claim is made 
that Jesus of Nazareth lived at the same time. An assertion is made that he rose from the dead. 
God is called the Creator of heaven and earth. You see, it's inherent to the Christian faith to make 
claims about the real world. According to the Bible, God has revealed himself in time and space, 
and so Christianity-fo r good or ill-is going to intersect some of the factual claims of history and 
science. There's either going to be conflict or agreement. 

"To make NOMA work, its advocates have to water down science or faith, or both. 
Certainly Gould did-he said religion is just a matter of ethical teaching, comfort, or 
metaphysical beliefs about meaning. But Christianity certainly claims to be more than that." 

This particular statement about Gould seemed vague. I wanted to pin him down by 
demanding specifics. "Could you give me one concrete example of how Gould watered down 
Christianity to make NOMA work?" I asked. 

"Sure," he said. "In his book Rocks of Ages, Gould reduces the appearance of the resurrected 
Jesus to doubting Thomas to being merely v a moral tale.''0 This was necessary for Gould to do 
under the rules of NOMA because all of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances come from a 
religious document-the Bible-and NOMA says religion must confine its claims to matters of 
morality and values. But the Bible clearly portrays Jesus' appearances as being actual historical 

events. Christianity hinges on the conviction that they really occurred. 

"NOMA may try to exclude this possibility by restricting religion to mere matters of 
morality, but the writers of the Bible did not see fit to limit their claims about God to the 
nonfactual domain that NOMA has allocated to religion. Now, there might be some religions that 
can fit comfortably with NOMA. But biblical Christianity-because it's built not just on faith, but 
on facts-simply cannot." 

Law professor Phillip Johnson also has been strongly critical of the NOMA concept. 
"Stephen Jay Gould condescendingly offers to allow religious people to express their subjective 
opinions about morals, provided they don't interfere with the authority of scientists to determine 
the 'facts'-one of the facts being that God is merely a comforting myth," he said." 

"So," I said to Meyer in summing up, "while much of science and biblical religion are 
concerned with different things, they clearly do have some overlapping territory." 

"Precisely. And when that happens, either they agree or disagree. The judgment of 
nineteenth-century historians, who were writing mainly out of an Enlightenment framework, was 
that where they did overlap, they invariably disagreed-and of the two domains, science was a 
more warranted system of belief. They believed conflict would continually grow between science 
and biblical religion." 

"What do you believe?" I asked. 

"My judgment is quite different," he said. "I believe that the testimony of science supports 
theism. While there will always be points of tension or unresolved conflict, the major 
developments in science in the past five decades have been running in a strongly theistic 

He paused momentarily, then punched his conclusion: "Science, done right, points toward 


Meyer's perspective couldn't be more different from the one I had when I was studying 
evolution in school. I had concluded that the persuasive naturalistic theories of Darwin 
eliminated any need for God. Meyer, however, was convinced that science and faith are pointing 
toward the same truth. I decided to press him for more details. 

"Could you list, say, half a dozen examples of how you believe science points toward 
theism?" I asked. 

Meyer settled deeper into his chair. "I would start," he said, "with the new cosmology-the Big 
Bang theory and its accompanying theoretical underpinning in general relativity. These two 
theories now point to a definite beginning of the universe. The fact that most scientists now 
believe that energy, matter, space, and time had a beginning is profoundly antimaterialistic. 

"You can invoke neither time nor space nor matter nor energy nor the laws of nature to 
explain the origin of the universe. General relativity points to the need for a cause that transcends 
those domains. And theism affirms the existence of such an entity-namely, God. 

"In short," he added, "naturalism is on hard times in cosmology; the deeper you get into it, 
the harder it is to get rid of the God hypothesis. Taken together, the Big Bang and general 
relativity provide a scientific description of what Christians call creatio ex nihilo-creation out of 
nothing. As Nobel Prize-winner Arno Penzias said about the Big Bang, "The best data we have 
are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the first five books of Moses, 
the Psalms and the Bible as a whole.'"" 

Meyer waited, apparently to see if I had any further questions, but I motioned for him to 

continue with his examples. 

"The second category of evidence would be for 'anthropic finetuning.' This means the 
fundamental laws and parameters of physics have precise numerical values that could have been 
otherwise. That is, there's no fundamental reason why these values have to be the way they are. 
Yet all of these laws and constants conspire in a mathematically incredible way to make life in 
the universe possible." 

I asked him for an example. "Take the expansion rate of the universe, which is fine-tuned to 
one part in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion," he said. "That is, if it were changed by one 
part in either direction-a little faster, a little slower-we could not have a universe that would be 
capable of supporting life. 

"As Sir Fred Hoyle commented, V A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a 
superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no 
blind forces worth speaking about in nature.' 13 

"Well, maybe this looks fine-tuned because there actually is a fine-tuner. In the opinion of 
physicist Paul Davies, "The impression of design is overwhelming.' 14 And I thoroughly agree. 
This is powerful evidence for intelligent design. 

"The third example of science pointing toward God is the origin of life and the origin of 
information necessary to bring life into existence," he continued. "Life at its root requires 
information, which is stored in DNA and protein molecules. 

"Richard Dawkins of Oxford said that v the machine code of the genes is uncannily 
computer- like.' 15 If you reflect on that, you realize that computers run on software programs that 
are produced by intelligent engineers. Every experience we have about informationwhether it's a 
computer code, hieroglyphic inscription, a book, or a cave painting-points toward intelligence. 
The same is true about the information inside every cell in every living creature." 

"Isn't that just an argument from ignorance?" I asked. "Scientists may not currently be able to 
find any explanation for how life began, but that doesn't necessarily point toward a supernatural 

"This is not an argument from ignorance," Meyer insisted. "We're not inferring design just 
because the naturalistic evolutionary theories all fail to explain information. We infer design 
because all those theories fail and we know of another causal entity that is capable of producing 
information-namely, intelligence. Personally, I find this to be a very strong argument indeed." 


Continuing on to the fourth example, Meyer said, "Then there's the evidence for design in 
molecular machines that defy explanation by Darwinian natural selection. These integrative, 
complex systems in biological organisms-which microbiologist Michael Behe calls 'irreducibly 
complex'-include signal transduction circuits, sophisticated motors, and all kinds of biological 

"What's the argument based on this?" I asked. 

"You see, these biological machines need all of their various parts in order to function. But 
how could you ever build such a system by a Darwinian process of natural selection acting on 
random variations? Natural selection only preserves things that perform a function-in other 
words, which help the organism survive to the next generation. That's survival of the fittest. 

"The problem with irreducibly complex systems is that they perform no function until all the 
parts are present and working together in close coordination with one another. So natural 
selection cannot help you build such systems; it can only preserve them once they've been built. 

And it's virtually impossible for evolution to take such a huge leap by mere chance to create the 
whole system at once. 

"Of course, this forces the question: how did the biochemical machine arise? Behe says 
maybe these biological systems look designed because they really were designed. After all, 
whenever we see irreducibly complex systems and we know how they arose, invariably a 
designer was the cause." 

"How strong of an argument do you think that is?" I asked. 

"I think it's very strong," he replied with a smile. "And you see that in the weak objections 
that are proposed by Darwinists. And again, that's just one more example. The next one would be 
the Cambrian explosion, which is yet another striking piece of evidence for design in the history 
of life." 

I told him that in a previous interview Jonathan Wells had already explained the basics of 
Biology's Big Bang. "He talked about it primarily in terms of being an argument against 
Darwinism," I said. 

"Indeed, it is," Meyer replied. "You have between twenty and thirty-five completely novel 
body plans that come online in the Cambrian. You have a huge jump in complexity, it's sudden, 
and you have no transitional intermediates. 

"But this is also affirmative evidence for design, because in our experience information 
invariably is the result of conscious activity. Here we have the geologically sudden infusion of a 
massive amount of new biological information needed to create these body plans, far beyond 
what any Darwinian mechanism can produce. Darwinism simply can't account for it; design is a 
better explanation. 

"Think about how suddenly these new body plans emerged. As one paleontologist said, 
"What I want to know from my biology friends is just how fast does this evolution have to 
happen before they stop calling it evolution?' Darwin said nature takes no sudden leaps. Yet 
here's a huge leap-which is what intelligent agents cause. Consequently, the Cambrian explosion 
provides not just a negative case against Darwinian evolution, but also a compelling positive 
argument for design." 

"All right," I said, "I asked for half a dozen examples. What would be the sixth?" 
Meyer thought for a moment. "I'd say human consciousness certainly supports a theistic 
view of human nature," he said. "Judaism and Christianity clearly teach that we are more than 
just matterwe're not a "computer made of meat,' in the words of Marvin Minsky, but we're made 
in God's image. 

"We have the capacity for self-reflection, for representational art, for language, for 
creativity. Science can't account for this kind of consciousness merely from the interaction of 
physical matter in the brain. Where did it come from? Again, I think theism provides the best 

Meyer scooted to the edge of his chair. "So what we have here," he said, wrapping up his 
impromptu presentation in a tone of urgency, "is an ensemble of half a dozen evidences that 
point to a transcendent, intelligent cause. This is mind-boggling stuff! Scientists in the nineteenth 
century weren't aware of these things when they said naturalism accounts for everything. Thanks 
to the discoveries of the last five decades, we know a lot more today." 

"Based on the evidence you've mentioned," I said, "how do you complete the case for God?" 
"First, theism, with its concept of a transcendent Creator, provides a more causally adequate 
explanation of the Big Bang than a naturalistic explanation can offer," he said. "The cause of the 
universe must transcend matter, space, and time, which were brought into existence with the Big 

Bang. The Judeo-Christian God has precisely this attribute of transcendence. Yet naturalism, by 
definition, denies the existence of any entity beyond the closed system of nature. 

"The fine-tuning of the physical laws and constants of the universe and the precise 
configuration of its initial conditions, dating back to the very origin of the universe itself, suggest 
the need for a cause that's intelligent. Theism affirms the existence of an entity that's not only 
transcendent but intelligent as well-namely, God. Thus, theism can explain both Big Bang 
cosmology and the anthropic fine-tuning. 

"Pantheism can't explain the origin of the universe, because pantheists believe in an 
impersonal god that's coextensive with the physical universe. Such a god can't bring the 
universe into being from nothing, since such a god doesn't exist independently of the physical 
universe. If initially the physical universe didn't exist, then the pantheistic god wouldn't have 
existed either. If it didn't exist, it couldn't cause the universe to exist." 

"What about deism?" I interjected, referring to the belief that God created the world but has 
since let it run on its own. "Can't deism account for the origin of the universe too?" 

"Yes, I'll provide that caveat-deism can do the same," he acknowledged. "But I believe the 
existence of design subsequent to the Big Bang undermines deism as an adequate explanation. 

"You see, deism can't explain the evidence of discrete acts of design or creation after the 
universe was created. The deistic god never intervenes in nature, yet we're seeing evidence of 
intelligent design in the history of life. For example, the high information content in the cell 
provides compelling evidence for an act of intelligent design of the first life, long after the 
beginning of the universe. 

"Taken together, what we know today gives us heightened confidence-from science-that God 
exists. The weight of the evidence is very, very impressive-in fact, in my opinion it's sufficiently 
conclusive to say that theism provides the best explanation for the ensemble of scientific 
evidence we've been discussing. 

"Science and faith are not at war. When scientific evidence and biblical teaching are correctly 
interpreted, they can and do support each other. I'd say to anyone who doubts that: investigate 
the evidence yourself." 

Meyer's whirlwind tour was exhilarating. At first blush, the cumulative case for God, built 
point by point from the discoveries of science, seemed staggering. Of course, I had a whole slew 
of follow-up questions, some of which I intended to pose to Meyer, and others I would save for 
the experts I planned to interview in each of the categories of evidence Meyer had mentioned. I 
decided to begin with the issue of just how much evidence for God is needed to establish the case 
for a Creator. 


In the legal arena, different courtrooms have different standards of proof. In criminal cases, 
the prosecutor must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In most civil cases, 
the plaintiff must prevail by a considerably lesser standard, called a preponderance of the 
evidence. In some civil cases, there's even a third level of proof situated between the other two: 
clear and convincing evidence/ 6 

When I asked Meyer what standard of proof he considered appropriate in the theological 
realm, he gave me an interesting history lesson on the topic of evidence for God. I decided to sit 
back and let him talk, reserving my follow-up questions for the end. 

"One extreme is to deny that there is any evidential basis for Christian belief and instead to 
say that all we need is faith," Meyer began. "That's known as 'fideism.' This came out of the 

Enlightenment, with the perceived failure of certain theistic proofs for the existence of God. 

"In particular, French philosopher Rene Descartes offered some pretty sloppy proofs to try to 
establish with absolute certainty that God exists. He used what are called "deductive proofs,' 
where you have major and minor premises, and if these premises can be shown to be true and the 
logic of the argument is correct, then the conclusion follows with certainty. For example, V A11 
men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal.' Descartes set the bar unrealisti- 
cally high-that is, using his proofs to try to create ironclad certainty that God exists-and he 
couldn't clear it. You can't absolutely prove-or disprove-the existence of God. 

"As a result, the opinion developed that arguments for God's existence don't work and that 
therefore there's no rational basis for faith. Then Darwin, by showing that the appearance of 
design could be explained through natural mechanisms without an actual designer, contributed to 
the conviction that there was no rational or evidential basis for believing in God. 

"In light of that, religious believers had a choice: reject faith, because it has no rational 
foundation, or reject the idea that you need a rational foundation for faith. The ones who 
remained believers took the latter, by saying, V I believe, I just don't have or need a rational basis 
for doing so.' They would then adopt strategies that would compartmentalize faith and reason, 
which led to the conclusion that faith and science occupy two different realms. 

"But there's a third option, which involves making a persuasive case for faith without using 
deductive proofs. Mathematician William Dembski and I wrote an article in 1998, articulating a 
model of reasoning that we think can be used to support theistic belief. It's called v inference to 
the best explanation.' 

"This is a form of practical reasoning that we use in life all the time. It says if we want to 
explain a phenomenon or event, we consider a whole range of hypotheses and infer to the one 
which, if true, would provide the best explanation. In other words, we do an exhaustive analysis 
of the possible explanations and keep adding information until only one explanation is left that 
can explain the whole range of data. 

"The way you discriminate between the competing hypotheses is to look at their explanatory 
power. Often, more than one hypothesis can explain the same piece of evidence. For instance, as 
we just agreed, deism and theism can both explain the beginning of the universe. Okay, fine. But 
if you keep looking at the data, you find that only theism can explain the evidence for design in 
biology after the origin of the universe. And so theism has superior explanatory power. 

"We reach conclusions with a high degree of confidence using this form of reasoning in our 
everyday life. This is what detectives do. This is what lawyers do in courts of law. Scientists use 
this approach. This model can enable us to achieve a high degree of practical certainty. 

"And when we look at the evidence I've mentioned from cosmology, physics, biology, and 
human consciousness, we find that theism has amazing explanatory scope and power. The 
existence of God explains this broad range of evidence more simply, adequately, and 
comprehensively than any other worldview, including its main competitors, naturalism or 
pantheism. And the discovery of corroborating or supportive evidence is accelerating. 

"In 1992, the historian of science Frederic Burnham said the God hypothesis v is now a more 
respectable hypothesis than at any time in the last one hundred years.'" I'd go even further. More 
than just being "respectable,' I'd say that the God hypothesis is forceful enough to warrant a 
verdict that he's alive and well." 


Several questions popped into my mind as I listened to Meyer's analysis. "I gave you the 

opportunity to offer six strands of scientific evidence for theism, and I'll be following up with 
specific objections when I explore them in-depth with other experts," I said. "But I don't want to 
leave without posing at least four overall challenges to you." 

As he listened, Meyer removed his gold-rimmed glasses and started cleaning them with a 
handkerchief. He looked up at me and said, "That sounds fair. Go ahead. What's your first 

I glanced down at my notes before speaking. "If the scientific evidence for theism is so 
compelling," I began, "then why don't more scientists believe in God? A study in 1966 showed 
that sixty percent of scientists either disbelieve or were doubtful about God, and the percentage 
goes up if you look at the most elite scientists." 18 

Meyer pursed his lips as he reflected on the question. "Initially, I'd say that it takes time for 
new discoveries to percolate and for their implications to be fully considered, and some of the 
best evidence for theism is very new," he said. "Scientists who are focused on one particular field 
may not be aware of discoveries in other fields that point toward theism. 

"Also, the materialistic worldview has exercised dominance on intellectual life in western 
culture for a hundred and fifty years. It has become the default worldview in science, philosophy, 
and academia in general. It's presupposed. Some people who dissent from it have experienced 
intense hostility and sometimes persecution. That could discourage others from exploring this 
area or speaking out favorably toward it." 

This point reminded me of a quote by Sandage, who once told a reporter that the scientific 
community is so scornful of faith that "there is a reluctance to reveal yourself as a believer, the 
opprobrium is so severe." 19 

"Finally," continued Meyer, "within the scientific culture there are belief systems that are 
philosophically very questionable. For instance, many believe that science must only allow 
naturalistic explanations, which excludes from consideration the design hypothesis. Many 
scientists put blinders on, refusing to acknowledge that evidence, and a kind of "group think' 

His answer sounded plausible, but it prompted a second line of inquiry. "There's a flip side to 
that issue," I said. "Skeptic Michael Shermer said almost all the people he sees in the Intelligent 
Design movement are Christians. 20 Doesn't that undermine the legitimacy of their science? 
Maybe they're only looking for what they want to find and aren't open to naturalistic 
explanations that might be sufficient." 

This challenge seemed to push a button with Meyer. "Every scientist has a motive," he said 
firmly, "but motives are irrelevant to assessing the validity of scientific theories, a case in court, 
or an argument in philosophy. You have to respond to the evidence or argument that's being 
offered, regardless of who offers it or why. If every person in the Intelligent Design movement 
were a fundamentalist who attends Baptist Bible Church, it wouldn't matter. Their arguments 
have to be weighed on their own merits." 

"But is this an exclusively Christian movement?" I asked. 

"No, it's not," he replied. "There are scientists who are proponents of intelligent design who 
are agnostic or Jewish, but I still don't think that's relevant. The vast majority of people who 
advocate Darwinism are naturalists or materialists, so you could play the motivemongering game 
either way. 

"Besides, look at it this way: if a scientist becomes persuaded by the evidence that theism is 
true and thus becomes a follower of God, should he or she then be disqualified from doing 
science in that area? Of course not. I say let's get beyond this side issue and let the evidence 

speak for itself. Is design the best explanation or not?" 

"That leads to the third question," I said. "If scientists do allow the possibility of the 
miraculous as an explanation, then doesn't that foreclose further investigation? Biologist Kenneth 
Miller has suggested that inferring the existence of an intelligent designer would result in a 
scientific dead-end." Why continue to explore an area scientifically once you've thrown up your 
hands and said, v God did this'?" 

Meyer immediately fired back. "I think the shoe is exactly on the other foot," he said. 

"How so?" 

"Let's take the issue of origins, for example," he said. "The question that's asked is, "How did 
the cell arise on earth?' If you say, "We're only going to let you consider answers that involve 
materialistic processes,' then that shuts down inquiry, because one of the possible causal 
explanations for the origin of life is that intelligence could have played a role." 

"So," I said, "you believe that ruling out the possibility of intelligent design stifles intellectual 
and scientific inquiry." 

"That's exactly right," he replied. "And I've seen it happen far too often." 

I pointed at him. "You want to change the rules of the game, don't you?" I said, my tone 
suggesting I had just caught him with his hand in the cookie jar. 

"In a sense, yes," he conceded. "I don't think it's right to invoke a self-serving rule that says 
only naturalistic explanations can be considered by science. Let's have a new period in the 
history of science where we have methodological rules that actually foster the unfettered seeking 
of truth. Scientists should be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it leads-even if it leads to a 
conclusion that makes some people uncomfortable." 


My fourth objection concerned a topic called "disteleology," which refers to apparent poor 
design in the biological and physical world. "To adopt the explanation of design, we are forced 
to attribute a host of flaws and imperfections to the Designer," Miller wrote . 22 The implication is 
that an imperfect design disproves the existence of a perfect God. 

One example Miller cited is the vertebrate eye. "We would have to wonder why an intelligent 
designer placed the neural wiring of the retina on the side facing the incoming light," he wrote. 
"This arrangement scatters the light, making our vision less detailed than it might be, and even 
produces a blind spot at the point that the wiring is pulled through the light-sensitive retina to 
produce the optic nerve that carries visual images to the brain. ""3 

Other Darwinists, including Oxford's Richard Dawkins, also have decried the eye's poor 
structure, with George Williams going so far as to declare it "stupidly" designed because "the 
retina is upside down." 24 

This seemed to be a compelling counter-argument to intelligent design. "If there is a 
designer," I said to Meyer, "doesn't the botched e ye design prove he's not really intelligent?" 

He pounced on the issue. "There's an important physiological reason as to why the retina has 
to be inverted in the eye," he said. "Within the overall design of the system, it's a tradeoff that 
allows the eye to process the vast amount of oxygen it needs in vertebrates. Yes, this creates a 
slight blind spot, but that's not a problem because people have two eyes and the two blind spots 
don't overlap. Actually, the eye is an incredible design." 

With that, Meyer stood and walked to the other side of the room, where his briefcase was 
leaning against a desk. He rifled through some papers and finally withdrew a photocopy of an 

"In fact," he said as he handed it to me, "biologist George Ayoub wrote this piece to refute the 
claim that the eye was badly created." I glanced at the technical article, in which Ayoub, a 
professor whose expertise is the cellular physiology of the retina, concludes: 

The vertebrate retina provides an excellent example of functional-though non-intuitive- 
design. The design of the retina is responsible for its high acuity and sensitivity. It is 
simply untrue that the retina is demonstrably suhoptimal, nor is it easy to conceive how it 
might be modified without significantly decreasing its function. 25 

Feeling a little chagrined, I put down the article. "Okay," I conceded, "maybe that's not a 
good example of disteleology, but there are a lot of others." 

Meyer interrupted. "Don't move on too quickly," he said. "There's a good lesson here. People 
make a lot of claims about bad biological design, but sometimes the entire picture is changed 
when you hear the rest of the story. For instance, people claim a design is bad because they look 
at only one parameter and claim it could have been better designed. However, engineers know all 
designs require optimizing a whole suite of parameters, and so tradeoffs are inevitable to create 
the best overall result." 

That was a mouthful that demanded elaboration. "Give me an example," I said. 

He gestured toward the Apple computer in the open briefcase at my feet. "One illustration 
that's sometimes given is a laptop," he said. "You could look at the screen and say, "Bad design; 
it should have been bigger.' You could look at the memory and say, "Bad design; should have 
had a larger capacity.' You could look at the keyboard and say, "Bad design; should have been 
easier to use.' 

"But the engineer isn't supposed to be creating the best screen, the best memory, and the best 
keyboard-he's supposed to be producing the best computer he can given certain size, weight, 
price, and portability requirements. Could the screen be bigger? Yes, but then portability suffers. 
Could the computer have more memory? Sure, but then the cost goes too high. 

"So there are inevitable tradeoffs and compromises. Each individual part might be criticized 
for being suboptimal, but that's not the issue. The real issue is how well the overall laptop 
functions. That's how good engineering works-and that explains some of the examples of 
supposed disteleology that are raised." 

While that made sense, it didn't answer everything. "You'll have to admit that there are other 
illustrations of disteleology that are more difficult to explain away," I said. 

"I don't deny that," he relied. "Some are just silly. Others are more thoughtful and serious, 
and they require effort to think through. For instance, Gould claimed the panda's thumb looks 
jerry-rigged and not designed. Well, experts on the panda say it's a pretty efficient way of 
scraping the bark off bamboo. In the absence of a standard of good design, which Gould can't 
provide, it's really hard to say whether it's good or bad. It seems to perform its function 
exceedingly well. 

"Other illustrations of disteleology get into issues of theodicy, or reconciling belief in God 
and natural evil. For example, what about viruses and bacteria that harm people? Did God create 
those? Natural theologians in the nineteenth century believed that if a perfect God created the 
world, then it would be perfect, so they were illequipped to deal with Darwin's disteleological 

"However, from a biblical point of view, there isn't an expectation that nature would be 
perfect. The Bible says there has been decay or deterioration because evil entered the world and 

disrupted the original design. We're not given all of the specifics on how this happened, but the 
biblical book of Romans affirms the natural world is groaning for its redemption, because 
something has gone wrong with the original creation. 26 Based on the biblical account, we would 
expect to see both evidence of design in nature as well as evidence of deterioration or decay- 
which we do." 

It was time to move on, but I glanced down at the laptop computer in my briefcase. I had to 
admit that Meyer's basic explanations about disteleology did make a lot of sense. 


As we wrapped up our conversation, I felt a little like Meyer did when he attended the Dallas 
conference in 1985: enthused about the affirmative scientific case for God. So far, the evidence 
from the telescope to the microscope was pointing powerfully in the direction of a Creator-a 
circumstance I never would have dreamed possible back in my days as a student. I was left with 
an urgent desire to continue my investigation. 

Still, I also was experiencing an underlying skepticism. Would the case for a Creator hold up 
when it was scrutinized more carefully and when I could cross-examine experts with all of the 
questions that plagued me? What fascinating new details would be supplied by those who have 
spent years studying the various categories of evidence that Meyer had described? Would his 
case emerge strengthened, weakened, or destroyed? 

As a legal affairs journalist, I had seen a lot of trials where the prosecutor provided a 
persuasive overview of the evidence during his opening statement to the jury. But the judge 
always instructs the jury that the prosecutor's words aren't evidence. They're merely a road map 
to help them process the subsequent testimony by witnesses. 

In a sense, this is what Meyer had provided for me: an outline of the scientific evidence for 
theism. Now was the time for me to put experts in cosmology, physics, astronomy, 
microbiology, biological information, and consciousness to the test and see whether the case is as 
strong as Meyer claimed. My plan was to start at the literal beginning-the origin of the universe, 
which occurred in an explosion of energy so incomprehensibly powerful that its echo, in effect, 
is still being heard billions of years later. 

I couldn't wait to get started! 


I didn't want to leave, however, without taking a few moments to ponder my impressions of 
Meyer. I especially liked his endearing blend of a professor's academic depth combined with an 
advocate's savvy and an enthusiast's winsome earnestness. But while we had talked a lot about 
science, a bit about philosophy, and a little about theology, I realized we hadn't delved into 
Meyer's personal reflections. His journey from scientist to intelligent design advocate was 
fascinating to me, and I was curious about the state of Stephen Meyer's spiritual life. 

"Over the years as you've studied the scientific evidence that supports theism, how has this 
affected your faith?" I asked. 

"It has strengthened it, no question," he replied. "The trend is definitely toward more 
discoveries that point toward God, and that excites me. More and more people are going to find 
themselves open to God as a result of new findings that make theistic belief the best explanation 
for the evidence of nature." 

He stopped at that. It was a safe answer, but I could tell he was weighing whether he should 
risk more. I sensed he was the kind of person who would be more comfortable extolling the 

virtues of microbiology than opening up about something as personal as his own relationship 
with God. But as I sat quietly and listened, he was about to prove me wrong. 

"One thing I haven't told you about my spiritual journey," he continued, "is that for a two- 
year period in my life, I was very attracted to Nietzsche's version of existentialism. Nietzsche 
had a different objection than the ones we've been talking about. He asked, Why should God rule 
and I serve? This resonated with me. Why should a condition of my happiness be submission to 
the will of God? I sensed I couldn't be happy without him; I knew my bad lifestyle only brought 
misery. So I ended up literally shaking my fist at God in a wheat field in Washington state. 

"My point is that the intellectual rebellion the apostle Paul talks about is very true in my own 
life. Even in my Christian thinking today, I find a tendency to slide back into what Paul refers to 
as the natural mind. And here's what the scientific evidence for God does for me: it realigns me. 
It helps me recognize that despite my natural tendency toward self-focus and self-absorption, I 
can't ignore what God has accomplished in this world to let everyone know that he is real, that he 
is the Creator, and that we need to get right with him. 

"I see this not only in cosmology and physics and biology, but also in the historical 
revelation of the Bible, principally in the revelation of Jesus Christ himself. He is so 
compelling! Einstein thought so. Napoleon thought so. This Nazarene captivated their attention, 
and he continues to captivate mine. 

"I remember thinking at one point that if the Jesus of the Bible weren't real, I would need to 
worship the person who created the character. Jesus is so beyond what I can comprehend! And 
the evidence for God in nature constantly challenges me to a deeper and fuller relationship with 
him. My study of the scientific evidence isn't separate from my life as a Christian; it's marbled 
throughout that experience. 

"I remember when I first began teaching a college course on the evidence for God, I got flack 
from some people who claimed that these kinds of arguments can produce an idol of the mind or 
make science a god. I felt a little reticent for a while-but no longer. I've come to an even stronger 
conviction that this is evidence that God has used to reveal himself to us. 

"I look at the stars in the night sky or reflect on the structure and information-bearing 
properties of the DNA molecule, and these are occasions for me to worship the Creator who 
brought them into existence. I think of the wry smile that might be on the lips of God as in the 
last few years all sorts of evidence for the reliability of the Bible and for his creation of the 
universe and life have come to light. I believe he has caused them to be unveiled in his 
providence and that he delights when we discover his fingerprints in the vastness of the universe, 
in the dusty relics of paleontology, and in the complexity of the cell. 

"So exploring the scientific and historical evidence for God is not only a cognitive exercise, 
but it's an act of worship for me. It's a way of giving the Creator the credit and honor and glory 
that are due to him. To attribute creation to a mere natural process is a form of idolatry to which 
we're all prone. I don't judge my naturalistic colleagues for being prone to that. That's how I'm 
constituted as well. All of us have a tendency to minimize God, to think and behave as if we 
weren't really immersed in his creation and that we aren't ourselves the product of his 
unimaginable creative power. 

"Looking at the evidence-in nature and in Scripture-reminds me over and over again of who 
he is. And it reminds me of who I am too- someone in need of him." 


More Resources on This Topic 

Dembski, William. The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about 

Intelligent Design. Downer's 
Grove. 111.: InterVarsity, 2004. 

McGrath, Alister. Glimpsing the Face of God. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. 2002. 
Meyer, Stephen C. "Evidence for Design in Physics and Biology." In Science and 

Evidence for Design in the Universe, eds. Michael J. Belie, William A. Dembski, and 

Stephen C. Meyer. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999. 
. "Modern Science and the Return of the God Hypothesis." In Science and Christianity: 

Four Views, ed. Richard F. Carlson. Downer's Grove, 111.: InterVarsity, 2000. 
Moreland, J. P Christianity and the Nature of Science. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1989. 
Witham, Larry. By Design: Science and the Search for God. San Francisco: Encounter, 






Set aside the many competing explanations of the Big Bang; something made an entire 
cosmos out of nothing. It is this realization-that something transcendent started it all- 
which has hard-science types ... using terms like ^miracle. ' 

Journalist Gregg Easterbrook 

Perhaps the best argument ... that the Big Bang supports theism is the obvious unease 
with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists. At times this has led to scientific ideas 
... being advanced with a tenacity which so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only 
suspect the operation of psychological forces lying very much deeper than the usual 
academic desire of a theorist to support his or her theory. 

Astrophysicist C. J. Ishamz 

My eyes scanned the magazines at the newsstand near my home. 

A beautiful woman graced Glamour. Sleek, high-performance cars streaked across the front 
of Motor Trend. And there on the cover of Discover magazine, sitting by itself, unadorned, 
floating in a sea of pure white background, was a simple red sphere. It was smaller than a tennis 
ball, tinier than a Titleist-just three quarters of an inch in diameter, not too much bigger than a 

As staggering as it seemed, it represented the actual size of the entire universe when it was 
just an infinitesimal fraction of one second old. Cried out the headline: Where Did Everything 
Come From? 

Thousands of years ago, the Hebrews believed they had the answer: "In the beginning God 
created the heavens and the earth," opens the Bible. 4 Everything began, they claimed, with the 
primordial fiat lux-the voice of God commanding light into existence. But is that a simplistic 
superstition or a divinely inspired insight? What do the cosmologists-scientists who devote their 
lives to studying the origin of the universe-have to say about the issue? 

It seemed to me that the beginning of everything was a good place to start my investigation 
into whether the affirmative evidence of science points toward or away from a Creator. At the 
time, I wasn't particularly interested in internal Christian debates over whether the world is 
young or old. The "when" wasn't as important to me as the "how" how do scientific models and 
theories explain the origin of all?" 

"In the beginning there was an explosion," explained Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven 
Weinberg in his book The First Three Minutes. "Not an explosion like those familiar on Earth, 

starting from a definite center and spreading out to engulf more and more of the circumambient 
air, but an explosion which occurred simultaneously everywhere, filling all space from the 
beginning with every particle of matter rushing apart from every other particle. 

Within the tiniest split second, the temperature hit a hundred thousand million degrees 
Centigrade. "This is much hotter than in the center of even the hottest star, so hot, in fact, that 
none of the components of ordinary matter, molecules, or atoms, or even the nuclei of atoms, 
could have held together," he wrote. 8 

The matter rushing apart, he explained, consisted of such elementary particles as negatively 
charged electrons, positively charged positrons, and neutrinos, which lack both electrical charge 
and mass. Interestingly, there were also photons: "The universe," he said, "was filled with light." 9 

"In three minutes," wrote Bill Bryson in A Short History of Nearly Everything, "ninety-eight 
percent of all the matter there is or will ever be has been produced. We have a universe. It is a 
place of the most wondrous and gratifying possibility, and beautiful, too. And it was all done in 
about the time it takes to make a sandwich. ' ° 

The most intriguing question is what caused the universe to suddenly spring into existence. 
For Bryson and many others, its mere presence somehow seems to explain itself. In a chapter 
called "How to Build a Universe," he vaguely speculates on exotic theories about a "false 
vacuum," or "scalar field," or "vacuum energy"-some sort of "quality or thing" that may have 
"introduced a measure of instability into the nothingness that was" and thus sparked the Big 
Bang through which emerged the entire universe. 

"It seems impossible that you could get something from nothing," he said, "but the fact that 
once there was nothing and now there is a universe is evident proof that you can." 1 ' 

Yet could there be another explanation that better accounts for the evidence? Might the 
mysterious causation be divine? Maybe Edward Milne was right when he capped his 
mathematical treatise on relativity by saying: "As to the first cause of the Universe ... that is left 
for the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without Him." 

I knew this investigation would take me into the slippery world of theoretical physics, where 
it's sometimes difficult to discern between what's profoundly scholarly and what's just plain silly. 
That was well-illustrated in late 2002 when a debate broke out over a highly speculative theory 
from two French mathematical physicists (who happened to he twins) about what might have 
preceded the Big Bang. 

As amazing-and amusing-as it seems, the scientific community couldn't figure out whether 
the brothers "are really geniuses with a new view of the moment before the universe began or 
simply earnest scientists who are in over their heads and spouting nonsense," said a New York 
Times article that featured the provocative headline: "Are They a) Geniuses or b) Jokers?" 

While one professor found their work "intriguing," another dismissed it as "nutty." Yet 
another protested: "Scientifically, it's clearly more or less complete nonsense, but these days that 
doesn't much distinguish it from a lot of the rest of the literature." The journal that published a 
paper by the disputed scientists, who had both received their doctorates with the lowest passing 
grades, later repudiated it. 13 

Obviously, delving into the dawning of the universe-way back to the first 1/10 million 
trillion trillion trillionths of a second, which is the furthest back scientists believe they can peer- 
is going to require a certain degree of speculation. Theories abound. Conceded one prominent 
cosmologist from Stanford University: "These are very close to religious questions." 
As for myself, I wasn't interested in unsupported conjecture or armchair musings by pipe-puffing 
theorists. I wanted the hard facts of mathematics, the cold data of cosmology, and only the most 

reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them. And that's what sent me to Georgia to visit 
the home of a widely published expert who has studied and debated these issues for decades. 


As a college student who graduated in 1971, Bill Craig had been taught that various 
arguments for the existence of God were weak, outdated, and ultimately ineffective. And that's 
what he believed-until he happened upon philosopher Stuart C. Hackett's 1957 book, The 
Resurrection of Theism. 

This dense tome never burned up the best- seller list. In fact, the self-effacing Hackett 
commented years later that "the book fell stillborn from the press because of its heavy style and 
technical context." Still, it absolutely stunned Craig. 

Hackett is a brilliant thinker who took these theistic arguments seriously, rigorously 
defending them from every objection he could find or imagine. One argument in the book was 
that the universe must have had a beginning and, therefore, a Creator. Craig was so intrigued that 
he decided to use his doctoral studies under British theologian John Hick to come to a resolution 
in his own mind concerning the soundness of this argument. Would it really withstand scrutiny? 
Craig ended up writing his dissertation on the topic-an exercise that launched him into a lifetime 
of exploring cosmology. 

Craig's books include a landmark debate with atheist Quentin Smith called Theism, Atheism 
and Big Bang Cosmology, published by Oxford University Press; The Kalam Cosmological 
Argument; The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe; The Cosmological 
Argument from Plato to Leibniz; and Reasonable Faith, as well as contributions on this and 
related topics to the books Does God Exist?; Faith and Reason; A Companion to Philosophy of 
Religion; Questions of Time and Tense; Mere Creation; The History of Science and Religion in 
the Western Tradition; Naturalism: A Critical Appraisal; and God and Time. 

His articles on cosmological issues also have appeared in a wide range of scientific and 
philosophical journals, including Astrophysics and Space Science, Nature, The British Journal 
for the Philosophy of Science, The Journal of Philosophy, and International Studies in the 
Philosophy of Science. 

A member of nine professional societies, including the American Philosophical Association, 
the Science and Religion Forum, the American Scientific Affiliation, and the Philosophy of 
Time Society, Craig currently is a research professor at the Talbot School of Theology. 

I hardly needed directions to Craig's suburban Atlanta home. In previous visits, I had 
interviewed him for The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, both times walking away 
thoroughly impressed by his scholarly depth and disarming sincerity. He has an uncanny ability 
to communicate complex concepts in accessible and yet technically accurate language-a rare skill 
that I would certainly put to the test again with this challenging subject. 

Craig answered the front door wearing a short-sleeved shirt, dark blue shorts, and brown 
moccasins. We descended a short flight of stairs to his office, where a soft, humid breeze wafted 
through a half-opened window. He sat behind his desk and leaned back in his chair, clasping his 
hands behind his head. I pulled up a chair and set up my tape recorder. 

We were ready to investigate what Craig himself believes to be "one of the most plausible 
arguments for God's existence" 1 -an argument based on evidence that the universe is not eternal, 
but that it had a beginning in the Big Bang. 


"You're a famous proponent of an argument for God's existence that's formally called the 
'kalam cosmological argument,'" I said in opening our conversation. "Before you define what 
that is, though, give me some background. What does kalam mean?" 

"Let me describe the origins of the argument," he said. "In ancient Greece, Aristotle believed 
that God isn't the Creator of the universe but that he simply imbues order into it. In his view, 
both God and the universe are eternal. Of course, that contradicted the Hebrew notion that God 
created the world out of nothing. So Christians later sought to refute Aristotle. One prominent 
Christian philosopher on the topic was John Philoponus of Alexandria, Egypt, who lived in the 
fourth century. He argued that the universe had a beginning. 

"When Islam took over North Africa, Muslim theologians picked up these arguments, because 
they also believed in creation. So while this tradition was lost to the Christian West, it began to 
be highly developed within Islamic medieval theology. One of the most famous Muslim 
proponents was al-Ghazali, who lived from 1058 to 1111. 

"These arguments eventually got passed back into Latin- speakin g Christendom through the 
mediation of Jewish thinkers, who lived side-by-side with Muslim theologians, particularly in 
Spain, which at that time had been conquered by the Muslims. They became hotly debated. 

"Bonaventure, the Italian philosopher, supported the arguments in the thirteenth century; 
John Locke, the British philosopher, used them in the seventeenth century, though I don't know 
if he knew of their Islamic origins; and eventually they found their way to Immanuel Kant, the 
German philosopher, in the eighteenth century. 

"Now, back to your question about the word kalam-it reflects the argument's Islamic origin. 
It's an Arabic word that means v speech' or v doctrine,' but it came to characterize the whole 
medieval movement of Islamic theology. That was called kalam-this highly academic theology 
of the Middle Ages, which later evaporated." 

I spoke up. "Obviously, none of these early philosophers knew about any of the scientific 
evidence for the origin of the universe," I said. "How did they argue that the universe had a 

"They relied on philosophical and mathematical reasoning," he said. "However, when 
scientists in the last century began to discover hard data about the Big Bang, this provided a 
more empirical foundation." 

"How do you frame the kalam argument?" 

"As formulated by al-Ghazali, the argument has three simple steps: "Whatever begins to exist 
has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause.' Then you can do a 
conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe, and a striking number of 
divine attributes can be identified." 

I decided to work my way through all three steps of al-Ghazali's nearly millennium-old 
argument, starting with a point thatsurprisingly-has become more and more disputed in recent 


"When I first began to defend the kalam argument," Craig said, "I anticipated that its first 
premise-that whatever begins to exist has a cause-would be accepted by virtually everyone. I 
thought the second premise-that the universe began to exist- would be much more controversial. 
But the scientific evidence has accumulated to the extent that atheists are finding it difficult to 
deny that the universe had a beginning. So they've been forced to attack the first premise 


Craig shook his head. "To me, this is absolutely bewildering!" he declared, his voice rising in 
dismay. "It seems metaphysically necessary that anything which begins to exist has to have a 
cause that brings it into being. Things don't just pop into existence, uncaused, out of nothing. Yet 
the atheist Quentin Smith concluded our book on the topic by claiming that "the most reasonable 
belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing.' That sounds like a good con- 
clusion to the Gettysburg Address of Atheism! It simply amazes me that anyone can think this is 
the most rational view. 

"Generally, people who take this position don't try to prove the premise is false, because they 
can't do that. Instead, they fold their arms and play the skeptic by saying, "You can't prove that's 
true.' They dial their degree of skepticism so high that nothing could possibly convince them." 

"On the other hand," I interjected, "they have every right to play the skeptic. After all, the 
burden of proof should be on you to present affirmative evidence to establish this first premise." 

Craig conceded my point with a nod. "Yes, but you shouldn't demand unreasonable standards 
of proof," he cautioned. 

I asked, "What positive proof can you offer?" 

"In the first place," he replied, "this first premise is intuitively obvious once you clearly grasp 
the concept of absolute nothingness. You see, the idea that things can come into being uncaused 
out of nothing is worse than magic. At least when a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, there's 
the magician and the hat! 

"But in atheism, the universe just pops into being out of nothing, with absolutely no 
explanation at all. I think once people understand the concept of absolute nothingness, it's simply 
obvious to them that if something has a beginning, that it could not have popped into being out 
of nothing but must have a cause that brings it into existence." 

Admittedly, that was difficult to dispute, but I needed something more substantial. "Can you 
offer anything harder than just intuition? What scientific evidence is there?" 

"Well, we certainly have empirical evidence for the truth of this premise. This is a principle 
that is constantly confirmed and never falsified. We never see things coming into being uncaused 
out of nothing. Nobody worries that while he's away at work, say, a horse might Pop into being, 
uncaused, out of nothing, in his living room, and be there defiling the carpet. We don't worry 
about those kinds of things, because they never happen. 

"So this is a principle that is constantly verified by science. At least, Lee, you have to admit 
that we have better reason to think it's true than it's false. If you're presented with the principle 
and its denial, which way does the evidence point? Obviously, the premise is more plausible 
than its denial." 

Still, my research had yielded at least one substantive objection to kalam's first premise. It 
emanates from the wacky world of quantum physics, where all kinds of strange, unexpected 
things happen at the subatomic level-a level, by the way, at which the entire universe existed in 
its very earliest stages, when electrons, protons, and neutrinos were bursting forth in the Big 
Bang. Maybe our commonplace understanding of cause-and-effect doesn't apply in this circus- 
mirror environment of "quantum weirdness," a place where, as science writer Timothy Ferris 
writes, "the logical foundations of classical science 
are violated." 19 


I pulled out the copy of the Discover magazine that I had been prompted to purchase after I 

had seen the marble- sized universe on its cover. I flipped it open and read the following to 

Quantum theory ... holds that a vacuum ... is subject to quantum uncertainties. This 
means that things can materialize out of the vacuum, although they tend to vanish back 
into it quickly... . Theoretically, anything-a dog, a house, a planet-can pop into existence 
by means of this quantum quirk, which physicists call a vacuum fluctuation. Probability, 
however, dictates that pairs of subatomic particles ... are by far the most likely creations 
and that they will last extremely briefly.... The spontaneous, persistent creation of 
something even as large as a molecule is profoundly unlikely. Nevertheless, in 1973 an 
assistant professor at Columbia University named Edward Tryon suggested that the entire 
universe might have come into existence this way.... The whole universe may be, to use 
[MIT physicist Alan] Guth's phrase, "a free lunch." 20 

I closed the magazine and tossed it on Craig's desk. "Maybe Tryon was right when he said, V I 
offer the modest proposal that our universe is simply one of those things which happen from time 
to time.' " 

Craig was listening intently. "Okay, that's a good question," he replied. "These subatomic 
particles the article talks about are called "virtual particles.' They are theoretical entities, and it's 
not even clear that they actually exist as opposed to being merely theoretical constructs. 

"However, there's a much more important point to be made about this. You see, these 
particles, if they are real, do not come out of nothing. The quantum vacuum is not what most 
people envision when they think of a vacuum-that is, absolutely nothing. On the contrary, it's a 
sea of fluctuating energy, an arena of violent activity that has a rich physical structure and can be 
described by physical laws. These particles are thought to originate by fluctuations of the energy 
in the vacuum. 

"So it's not an example of something coming into being out of nothing, or something coming 
into being without a cause. The quantum vacuum and the energy locked up in the vacuum are the 
cause of these particles. And then we have to ask, well, what is the origin of the whole quantum 
vacuum itself? Where does it come from?" 

He let that question linger before continuing. "You've simply pushed back the issue of 
creation. Now you've got to account for how this very active ocean of fluctuating energy came 
into being. Do you see what I'm saying? If quantum physical laws operate within the domain 
described by quantum physics, you can't legitimately use quantum physics to explain the origin 
of that domain itself. You need something transcendent that's beyond that domain in order to 
explain how the entire domain came into being. Suddenly, we're back to the origins question." 

Craig's answer satisfied me. In fact, there didn't seem to be any rational objection that could 
seriously jeopardize the initial assertion of the kalam argument. And it has been that way since 
the early philosophers began to use it centuries ago. 

"Even the famous skeptic David Hume didn't deny the first premise," Craig noted. "Hume 
wrote in 1754, V I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a 
cause.' 22 It wasn't until the discovery of scientific confirmation for the beginning of the universe 
in the twentieth century that people began to say, well, maybe the universe just came from 

"Nobody has defended such an absurd position historically," said Craig, "which, again, 
makes me inclined to think this is just a corner they're being backed into by the evidence for the 
beginning of the universe." 


Turning to the second premise of the kalam argument, I said to Craig, "If we were sitting 
here a hundred years ago, the idea that the universe began to exist at a specific point in the past 
would have been very controversial, wouldn't it?" 

"No question about it," replied Craig. "The assumption ever since the ancient Greeks has 
been that the material world is eternal. Christians have denied this on the basis of biblical 
revelation, but secular science always assumed the universe's eternality. Christians just had to 
say, well, even though the universe appears static, nevertheless it did have a beginning when God 
created it. So the discovery in the twentieth century that the universe is not an unchanging, 
eternal entity was a complete shock to secular minds. It was utterly unanticipated." 

Still, I needed evidence. "How do we really know that the universe started at some point in 
the past?" I asked. "What proof is there?" 

"Essentially," said Craig, "there are two pathways toward establishing it. One could be called 
either mathematical or philosophical, while the other is scientific. Let's begin with the 
mathematical argument, which, incidentally, picks up on the thinking of Philoponus and the 
medieval Islamic theologians I mentioned earlier." 


The early Christian and Muslim scholars, Craig explained, used mathematical reasoning to 
demonstrate that it was impossible to have an infinite past. Their conclusion, therefore, was that 
the universe's age must be finite-that is, it must have had a beginning. 

"They pointed out that absurdities would result if you were to have an actually infinite 
number of things," he said. "Since an infinite past would involve an actually infinite number of 
events, then the past simply can't be infinite." 

It took a moment for that statement to sink in. I have always been a reluctant student of 
mathematics, especially such esoteric permutations as transfinite arithmetic. Before we could 
venture into any mathematical complexities, I reached over and pushed the "pause" button on my 
tape recorder. 

"Hold on a minute, Bill," I said. "If I'm going to track with you on this, you're going to have 
to give me some illustrations to clarify things." 

Craig already had some in mind. "Okay, no problem," he replied. When I turned the recorder 
back on, he continued. 

"Let's use an example involving marbles," he said. "Imagine I had an infinite number of 
marbles in my possession, and that I wanted to give you some. In fact, suppose I wanted to give 
you an infinite number of marbles. One way I could do that would be to give you the entire pile 
of marbles. In that case I would have zero marbles left for myself. 

"However, another way to do it would be to give you all of the odd numbered marbles. Then I 
would still have an infinity left over for myself, and you would have an infinity too. You'd have 
just as many as I would-and, in fact, each of us would have just as many as I originally had 
before we divided into odd and even! Or another approach would be for me to give you all of the 
marbles numbered four and higher. That way, you would have an infinity of marbles, but I would 
have only three marbles left. 

"What these illustrations demonstrate is that the notion of an actual infinite number of things 
leads to contradictory results. In the first case in which I gave you all the marbles, infinity minus 
infinity is zero; in the second case in which I gave you all the odd-numbered marbles, infinity 
minus infinity is infinity; and in the third case in which I gave you all the marbles numbered four 

and greater, infinity minus infinity is three. In each case, we have subtracted the identical number 
from the identical number, but we have come up with nonidentical results. 

"For that reason, mathematicians are forbidden from doing subtraction and division in 
transfinite arithmetic, because this would lead to contradictions. You see, the idea of an actual 
infinity is just conceptual; it exists only in our minds. Working within certain rules, 
mathematicians can deal with infinite quantities and infinite numbers in the conceptual realm. 
However-and here's the point-its not descriptive of what can happen in the real world. " 

I was following Craig so far. "You're saying, then, that you couldn't have an infinite number 
of events in the past." 

"Exactly, because you would run into similar paradoxes," he said. "Substitute "past events' for 
"marbles,' and you can see the absurdities that would result. So the universe can't have an infinite 
number of events in its past; it must have had a beginning. 

"In fact, we can go further. Even if you could have an actual infinite number of things, you 
couldn't form such a collection by adding one member after another. That's because no matter 
how many you add, you can always add one more before you get to infinity. This is sometimes 
called the Impossibility of Traversing the Infinite. 

"But if the past really were infinite, then that would mean we have managed to traverse an 
infinite past to arrive at today. It would be as if someone had managed to count down all of the 
negative numbers and to arrive at zero at the present moment. Such a task is intuitively 
nonsense. For that reason as well, we can conclude there must have been a beginning to the 

Still, I spotted an inconsistency that threatened to unravel Craig's argument. "If the idea of 
the universe being infinitely old leads to absurd conclusions, then what about the idea of God 
being infinitely old?" I asked. "Doesn't your reasoning also automatically rule out the idea of an 
eternal deity?" 

"That depends," he said. "It rules out the concept of a God who has endured through an 
infinite past time. But that's not the classic idea of God. Time and space are creations of God that 
began at the Big Bang. If you go back beyond the beginning of time itself, there is simply eter- 
nity. By that, I mean eternity in the sense of timelessness. God, the eternal, is timeless in his 
being. God did not endure through an infinite amount of time up to the moment of creation; that 
would be absurd. God transcends time. He's beyond time. Once God creates the universe, he 
could enter time, but that's a different topic altogether." 

I quickly reviewed in my mind what Craig had said so far, concluding that it was logically 
coherent. "How convincing do you think the mathematical pathway is?" I asked. 

"Well, I'm convinced of it!" he replied with a chuckle. "In fact, this is such a good argument 
that even if I were living in the nineteenth century, when there was little scientific evidence for 
the beginning of the universe, I would still believe that the universe is finite in the past on the 
basis of these arguments. For me, the scientific evidence is merely confirmation of a conclusion 
already arrived at on the basis of philosophical reasoning." 


At this point, we turned the corner to begin discussing the scientific evidence for the universe 
being created in the Big Bang billions of years ago. "What discoveries began pointing scientists 
toward this model?" I asked. 

"When Albert Einstein developed his general theory of relativity in 1915 and started applying 
it to the universe as a whole, he was shocked to discover it didn't allow for a static universe. 

According to his equations, the universe should either be exploding or imploding. In order to 
make the universe static, he had to fudge his equations by putting in a factor that would hold the 
universe steady. 

"In the 1920s, the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman and the Belgium astronomer 
George Lemaitre were able to develop models based on Einstein's theory. They predicted the 
universe was expanding. Of course, this meant that if you went backward in time, the universe 
would go back to a single origin before which it didn't exist. Astronomer Fred Hoyle derisively 
called this the Big Bangand the name stuck! 

"Starting in the 1920s, scientists began to find empirical evidence that supported these purely 
mathematical models. For instance, in 1929, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered 
that the light coming to us from distant galaxies appears to be redder than it should be, and that 
this is a universal feature of galaxies in all parts of the sky. Hubble explained this red shift as 
being due to the fact that the galaxies are moving away from us. He concluded that the universe 
is literally flying apart at enormous velocities. Hubble's astronomical observations were the first 
empirical confirmation of the predictions by Friedman and Lemaitre. 

"Then in the 1940s, George Gamow predicted that if the Big Bang really happened, then the 
background temperature of the universe should be just a few degrees above absolute zero. He 
said this would be a relic from a very early stage of the universe. Sure enough, in 1965, two 
scientists accidentally discovered the universe's background radiation-and it was only about 3.7 
degrees above absolute zero. There's no explanation for this apart from the fact that it is a vestige 
of a very early and a very dense state of the universe, which was predicted by the Big Bang 

"The third main piece of evidence for the Big Bang is the origin of light elements. Heavy 
elements, like carbon and iron, are synthesized in the interior of stars and then exploded through 
supernovae into space. But the very, very light elements, like deuterium and helium, cannot have 
been synthesized in the interior of stars, because you would need an even more powerful furnace 
to create them. These elements must have been forged in the furnace of the Big Bang itself at 
temperature s that were billions of degrees. There's no other explanation. 

"So predictions about the Big Bang have been consistently verified by scientific data. 
Moreover, they have been corroborated by the failure of every attempt to falsify them by 
alternative models. Unquestionably, the Big Bang model has impressive scientific credentials." 

"And that," I observed, "has surprised a lot of people." 

"It was an absolute shock!" he declared. "Up to this time, it was taken for granted that the 
universe as a whole was a static, eternally existing object." 

I knew, however, that there have been more recent refinements of the standard Big Bang 
model. "Most scientists would add inflation theory to the description of how the universe got 
started," I said. "How has that changed the way we look at the Big Bang?" 

"Yes, inflation is a wrinkle that most theorists would add," he acknowledged. He paused for a 
moment, then added: "Personally, though, I think the reasons for it are a bit suspect." 

That took me aback. "Why is that?" 

"You see, the Big Bang was not a chaotic, disorderly event. Instead, it appears to have been 
fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life with a complexity and precision that literally defies 
human comprehension. In other words, the universe we see today-and our very existence- 
depends upon a set of highly special initial conditions. This phenomenon is strong evidence that 
the Big Bang was not an accident, but that it was designed. Theorists who are uncomfortable 
about this want to avoid the problem by trying to explain how you can get a universe like ours 

without these special initial conditions. Inflation is one attempt to do this." 

I had read about inflation theory in several books and articles, but I asked Craig to describe it 
so that we were working from a common definition. 

"Inflation says that in the very, very early history of the universe, the universe underwent a 
period of super- rapid, or "inflationary,' expansion. Then it settled down to the more leisurely 
expansion we observe today. This inflationary expansion supposedly avoids the problem of the 
initial conditions of the universe by blowing them out beyond the range of what we can observe. 
So in a sense, inflation isn't something that is motivated by the scientific evidence; it's motivated 
by a desire to avoid these special initial conditions that are present in the standard model. 

"And inflation itself has been plagued with problems. There are probably fifty different 
inflationary models. Nobody knows which, if any, is correct. There isn't any empirical test that 
proves inflation has occurred. So even though most theorists accept inflation today, I'm rather 
suspicious of the whole thing, because it appears to be motivated by a philosophical bias." 

I stopped to analyze Craig's comments. As I thought about inflationary theory, I didn't 
understand how it would erode anyone's confidence in the overall Big Bang model. "Since this 
inflationary period supposedly happened a microsecond after the Big Bang occurred," I said, 
"then it really doesn't affect the question of the origin of the universe." 

"That's right," Craig replied. "Prior to inflation, the universe still shrinks back to a 

I put up my hand to stop him. "A what?" 

"A singularity," he repeated. "That's the state at which the spacetime curvature, along with 
temperature, density, and pressure, becomes infinite. It's the beginning point. It's the point at 
which the Big Bang occurred." 

I nodded to acknowledge the clarification. "Okay," I said. "Then how would you assess the 
health of the Big Bang model today?" 

"It's the standard paradigm of contemporary cosmology," he answered. "I would say that its 
broad framework is very securely established as a scientific fact. Stephen Hawking has said, 
v Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big 
Bang."' 23 

By this point in our discussion, Craig had provided compelling facts to support the two 
premises of the kalam argument. All that remained was its conclusion-and the absolutely 
staggering implications that logically flow from it. 


In arguing for the existence of God, thirteenth-century Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas 
always presupposed Aristotle's view that the universe is eternal. On the basis of that difficult 
assumption, he then sought to prove that God exists. Why did he take this approach? Because, 
Aquinas said, if he were to start with the premise that the universe had a beginning, then his task 
would be too easy! Obviously, if there was a beginning, something had to bring the universe into 

But now, modern astrophysics and astronomy have dropped into the lap of Christians 
precisely the premise that, according to Aquinas, makes God's existence virtually undeniable. 

Craig offered that story to punch his next point. "Given that whatever begins to exist has a 
cause and that the universe began to exist, there must be some sort of transcendent cause for the 
origin of the universe," Craig told me. 

"Even atheist Kai Nielsen said, "Suppose you suddenly hear a loud bang ... and you ask me, 

"What made that bang?' and I reply, "Nothing, it just happened.' You would not accept that.' 24 
He's right, of course. And if a cause is needed for a small bang like that, then it's needed for the 
Big Bang as well. This is an inescapable conclusion-and it's a stunning confirmation of the 
millennia-old Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation out of nothing." 

At the time an agnostic, American astronomer Robert Jastrow was forced to concede that 
although details may differ, "the essential element in the astronomical and biblical accounts of 
Genesis is the same; the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply, at a 
definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy." 25 

But although logic dictates that a cause sparked the Big Bang, I wondered how much logic 
can also tell us about its identity. "What specifically can you deduce about this cause?" I asked 

"There are several qualities we can identify," he replied. "A cause of space and time must be 
an uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal being endowed with 
freedom of will and enormous power," he said. "And that is a core concept of God." 

"Hold on, hold on!" I insisted. "Many atheists see a fatal inconsistency. They don't see how 
you can say the Creator could be "uncaused.' For instance, atheist George Smith says, "If 
everything must have a cause, how did god become exempt?' 26 In The Necessity of Atheism, 
David Brooks says: "If everything must have a cause, then the First Cause must be caused and 
therefore: Who made God? To say that this First Cause always existed is to deny the basic 
assumption of this theory.' 2 What would you say to them?" 

Craig's eyebrows shot up. "Well, that just misses the point!" he exclaimed. "Obviously, 
they're not dealing with the first premise of the kalam argument, which is not that everything has 
a cause, but that whatever begins to exist has a cause. I don't know of any reputable philosopher 
who would say everything has a cause. So they're simply not dealing with a correct formulation 
of the kalam argument. 

"And this is not special pleading in the case of God. After all, atheists have long maintained 
that the universe doesn't need a cause, because it's eternal. How can they possibly maintain that 
the universe can be eternal and uncaused, yet God cannot be timeless and uncaused?" 

At that point, another objection popped into my mind. "Why does it have to be one Creator?" 
I asked. "Why couldn't multiple Creators have been involved?" 

"My opinion," Craig answered, "is that Ockham's razor would shave away any additional 

"What's Ockham's razor?" 

"It's a scientific principle that says we should not multiply causes beyond what's necessary to 
explain the effect. Since one Creator is sufficient to explain the effect, you would be unwarranted 
in going beyond the evidence to posit a plurality." 

"That seems a little soft to me," I said. 

"Well, it's a universally accepted principle of scientific methodology," he replied. "And 
besides, the kalam argument can't prove everything about the Creator. Nothing restricts us from 
looking at wider considerations. For instance, Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed the truth of 
monotheism, and he was vindicated by his resurrection from the dead, for which we have 
convincing historical evidence. 28 Consequently, we have good grounds for believing that what he 
said was true." 

I conceded the point, but at the same time my mind began to fill with other objections 
concerning the identity of the universe's cause. Among the most troubling was whether the kalam 
argument can tell us if the Creator is personal, as Christians believe, or merely an impersonal 

force, as many New Age adherents maintain. 


"You said earlier that there's evidence that the cause of the universe was personal," I said. "I 
don't see how this can be logically deduced. In fact, Smith has complained that arguments like 
yours cannot establish whether the first cause was, or is, alive or conscious-'and,' he says, v an 
inanimate, unconscious god is of little use to theism.' 29 He has a point there, doesn't he?" 

"No, I don't think so," said Craig. "One of the most remarkable features of the kalam 
argument is that it gives us more than just a transcendent cause of the universe. It also implies a 
personal Creator." 
"How so?" 

Craig leaned back into his chair. "There are two types of explanations-scientific and 
personal," he began, adopting a more professorial tone. "Scientific explanations explain a 
phenomenon in terms of certain initial conditions and natural laws, which explain how those 
initial conditions evolved to produce the phenomenon under consideration. By contrast, personal 
explanations explain things by means of an agent and that agent's volition or will." 

I interrupted to ask Craig for an illustration. He obliged me by saying: "Imagine you walked 
into the kitchen and saw the kettle boiling on the stove. You ask, v Why is the kettle boiling?' 
Your wife might say, "Well, because the kinetic energy of the flame is conducted by the metal 
bottom of the kettle to the water, causing the water molecules to vibrate faster and faster until 
they're thrown off in the form of steam.' That would be a scientific explanation. Or she might 
say, V I put it on to make a cup of tea.' That would be a personal explanation. Both are legitimate, 
but they explain the phenomenon in different ways." 

So far, so good. "But how does this relate to cosmology?" 

"You see, there cannot be a scientific explanation of the first state of the universe. Since it's 
the first state, it simply cannot be explained in terms of earlier initial conditions and natural laws 
leading up to it. So if there is an explanation of the first state of the universe, it has to be a 
personal explanation-that is, an agent who has volition to create it. That would be the first reason 
that the cause of the universe must be personal. 

"A second reason is that because the cause of the universe transcends time and space, it 
cannot be a physical reality. Instead, it must be nonphysical or immaterial. Well, there are only 
two types of things that can be timeless and immaterial. One would be abstract objects, like 
numbers or mathematical entities. However, abstract objects can't cause anything to happen. The 
second kind of immaterial reality would be a mind. A mind can be a cause, and so it makes sense 
that the universe is the product of an unembodied mind that brought it into existence. 

"Finally, let me give you an analogy that will help explain a third reason for why the first 
cause is personal. Water freezes at zero degrees Centigrade. If the temperature were below zero 
degrees from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity past. It 
would be impossible for the water to just begin to freeze a finite time ago. In other words, once 
the sufficient conditions were met-that is, the temperature was low enough-then the consequence 
would be that water would automatically freeze. 

"So if the universe were just a mechanical consequence that would occur whenever sufficient 
conditions were met, and the sufficient conditions were met eternally, then it would exist from 
eternity past. The effect would be co-eternal with the cause. 

"How do you explain, then, the origin of a finite universe from a timeless cause? I can only 

think of one explanation: that the cause of the universe is a personal agent who has freedom of 
will. He can create a new effect without any antecedent determining conditions. He could decide 
to say, "Let there be light,' and the universe would spring into existence. I've never seen a good 
response to this argument on the part of any atheist." 

Putting the issue a bit simpler, British physicist Edmund Whittaker made a similar 
observation in his book The Beginning and End of the World. He said, "There is no ground for 
supposing that matter and energy existed before and was suddenly galvanized into action. For 
what could distinguish that moment from all other moments in eternity? It is simpler to postulate 
creation ex nihilo-Divine will constituting Nature from nothingness." 30 

Craig had made a good case for the cause of the universe being personal, and yet he offered 
no evidence concerning whether the Creator is still living today. Perhaps the Creator put the 
universe into motion and then ceased to exist. Smith also makes this challenge, saying that an 
argument like Craig's is "capable only of demonstrating the existence of a mysterious first cause 
in the distant past. It does not establish the present existence of the first cause." 3 ' 

This objection, though, didn't faze Craig. "It's certainly plausible that this being would still 
exist," he said, "because he transcends the universe and is therefore above the laws of nature, 
which he created. It therefore seems unlikely that anything in the laws of nature could extinguish 
him. And, of course, Christians believe this Creator has not remained silent but has revealed 
himself decisively in the person, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, which shows 
that he's still around and still working in history. 

"Again, the kalam argument can't prove everything, and that's fine. We're free to look around 
for other evidence that the Creator still exists. Let's see if he answers prayers, if he raised Jesus 
from the dead, if he revealed himself in the fulfillment of prophecy, and so forth. It seems that 
the burden of proof should be on the person claiming he did once exist, but he no longer does." 

Even though that seemed to make sense, something inside of me was saying, "Not so fast!" 
The kalam argument was a little too cutand-dried; Craig's evidence seemed a bit too airtight. 
Was his conclusion that a personal Creator was behind the Big Bang really warranted, or might 
there be a way to get around it? 

There was too much at stake not to probe every reasonable possibility, including whether 
there's an explanation that would negate the need for an absolute beginning of the universe-and 
thus eliminate the Creator that the Big Bang implies. 


Efforts to come up with alternatives to the standard Big Bang model have intensified in 
recent years. Many scientists are troubled by the fact that the beginning of the universe 
necessitates a Creator. Others are perturbed because the laws of physics can't account for the 
creation event. 

Einstein admitted the idea of the expanding universe "irritates me" 32 (presumably, said one 
prominent scientist, "because of its theological implications") 33 British astronomer Arthur 
Eddington called it "repugnant." MIT's Phillip Morrison said, "I would like to reject it." 34 
Jastrow said it was "distasteful to the scientific mind," adding: 

There is a kind of religion in science; it is the religion of a person who believes there is 
order and harmony in the Universe. Every event can be explained in a rational way as the 
product of some previous event; every effect must have its cause; there is no First 
Cause.... This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had 
a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a 

product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist 
has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. 


Has this attitude, I asked Craig, fueled efforts to circumvent the idea of the Big Bang? 

"I believe it has. A good example is the Steady State theory proposed in 1948," he replied. "It 
said that the universe was expanding all right but claimed that as galaxies retreat from each 
other, new matter comes into being out of nothing and fills the void. So in contradiction to the 
First Law of Thermodynamics, which says that matter is neither created nor destroyed, the 
universe is supposedly being constantly replenished with new stuff." 

The concept was intriguing if nothing else. "What was the evidence for it?" I asked. 

"There was none!" Craig exclaimed. "It never secured a single piece of experimental 
verification. It was motivated purely by a desire to avoid the absolute beginning of the universe 
predicted by the Big Bang model-in fact, one of its originators, Sir Fred Hoyle, was quite overt 
about this. He was very up front about his desire to avoid the metaphysical and theological 
implications of the Big Bang by proposing a model that was eternal in the past." 

I interrupted. "Wait a minute, Bill," I said. Recalling a comment by science philosopher 
Stephen C. Meyer in my earlier interview, I asked: "Wouldn't you agree that the motivations 
behind a theory are independent of its scientific worth?" 

"Yes, yes, I'd agree with that," Craig replied. "In this case, though, there were no scientific 
data supporting it. It's a good illustration of how scientists are not mere thinking machines but 
are driven by philosophical and emotional factors as well." 

Rather than try to second-guess the motivations of cosmologists, I decided to ask Craig about 
several alternatives to the standard Big Bang model that have gained currency through the years. 
Maybe one of them could succeed in toppling the theistic conclusion of the kalam argument. 


The first alternative I mentioned to Craig-the Oscillating Model of the universe-was 
popularized by astronomer Carl Sagan on his Cosmos television program. This theory eliminates 
the need for an absolute beginning of the universe by suggesting that the universe expands, then 
collapses, then expands again, and continues in this cycle indefinitely. Interestingly, Sagan even 
quoted from Hindu scriptures to show how this is consistent with its cyclical themes. When I 
asked Craig about Sagan's theory, he said that, yes, he was quite familiar with it. 

"That model was popular in the 1960s, particularly among Russian cosmologists," he said. 

"In 1968, when I was at the World Congress on Philosophy in Dusseldorf, I heard Soviet bloc 

cosmologists espousing this model, simply because of their commitment to dialectical 

materialism. They could not deny the eternality of matter because this was part of Marxist 

philosophy, and so, despite the evidence, they were holding out hope for the Oscillating Model." 

"But," I interjected, "support for this model apparently hasn't waned. As recently as 2003, 

Bill Bryson, in his best-seller A Short History of Nearly Everything, said that v one notion' 

among scientists is that "we're just one of an eternal cycle of expanding and collapsing 

universes, like the bladder on an oxygen machine.'" 36 

"Well, several problems with the Oscillating Model have been well known for decades," he 
replied. "For one thing, it contradicts the known laws of physics. Theorems by Hawking and 
Penrose show that as long as the universe is governed by general relativity, the existence of an 
initial singularity-or beginning-is inevitable, and that it's impossible to pass through a singularity 
to a subsequent state. And there's no known physics that could reverse a contracting universe and 

suddenly make it bounce before it hits the singularity. The whole theory was simply a theoretical 
abstraction. Physics never supported it. 

"Another problem is that in order for the universe to oscillate, it has to contract at some 
point. For this to happen, the universe would have to be dense enough to generate sufficient 
gravity that would eventually slow its expansion to a halt and then, with increasing rapidity, 
contract it into a big crunch. But estimates have consistently indicated that the universe is far 
below the density needed to contract, even when you include not only its luminous matter, but 
also all of the invisible dark matter as well. 

"Recent tests, run by five different laboratories in 1998, calculated a ninety-five-percent 
certainty that the universe will not contract, but that it will expand forever. In fact, in a 
completely unexpected development, the studies indicated that the expansion is not decelerating, 
but it's actually accelerating. This really puts the nails in the coffin for the Oscillating Model. 

"And one more problem: even if physics allowed the universe to contract, scientific studies 
have shown that entropy would be con s erved from one cycle to the next. This would have the 
effect of each expansion getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Now, trace that backwards in 
time and what do you get? They get smaller and smaller and s mailer, until you finally come to 
the smallest cycle-and then the beginning of the universe. So Joseph Silk, in his book The Big 
Bang, estimates that even if the universe were oscillating, it could not have gone through more 
than a hundred previous oscillations prior to today." 37 

All of this did, indeed, seem to doom this theory. "Sagan was an agnostic who liked to say 
that the universe v is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be,' " I said. "But you're saying that the 
evidence indicates-" 

"-that the Oscillating Model itself implies the beginning of the universe which its proponents 
sought to avoid. That's right," Craig said. 

"But," I pointed out, "permutations of his theory are being proposed even today." I removed a 
newspaper article from my briefcase and read the headline to Craig: Princeton Physicist Offers 
Theory of Cyclic Universe. 

"This cosmologist says the Big Bang is not the beginning of time but a bridge to a pre- 
existing era," I said. "He says the universe undergoes an endless sequence of cycles in which it 
contracts with a big crunch and reemerges in an expanding Big Bang, with trillions of years of 
evolution in between. He says mysterious Mark energy' first pushes the universe apart at an 
accelerating rate, but then it changes its character and causes it to contract and then rebound in 
cycle after cycle." 

Craig was familiar with the concept. "This model is based on a certain version of string 
theory, which is an alternative to the standard quark model of particle physics," he explained. 

"The scenario postulates that our universe is a three-dimensional membrane in a five- 
dimensional space, and that there's another threedimensional membrane which is in an eternal 
cycle of approaching our membrane and colliding with it. When this happens, it supposedly 
causes an expansion of our universe from the point of collision. Then our universe retreats and 
repeats the cycle again, and on and on. 

"The idea is that this five-dimensional universe is eternal and beginningless. So you have a 
cyclic model of our universe that is expanding, but nevertheless this larger dimensional universe 
as a whole is eternal." 

Though difficult to conceptualize, this idea had a certain amount of appeal. "What do you 
think of this model?" I asked. 

"Well, this isn't even a model, it's just sort of a scenario, because it hasn't been developed. 

The equations for string theory haven't even all been stated yet, much less solved. So this is 
extremely speculative and uncertain. But let's consider it on its merits," he said. 

"This cyclic scenario is plagued with problems. For one thing, it is inconsistent with the very 
string theory it's based on! Nobody has been able to solve that problem. Moreover, this is simply 
the five-dimensional equivalent of a three-dimensional oscillating universe. As such, it faces 
many of the same problems that the old oscillating model did. 

"But more interesting is that in 2001, inflation theorist Alan Guth and two other physicists 
wrote an article on how inflation is not past eternal. They were able to generalize their results to 
show that they were also applicable to multidimensional models, like the one in this newspaper 
article. So it turns out that even the cyclical model in five dimensions has to have a beginning." 

Craig sighed as he sat back in his chair. "It's amazing how this falls into a consistent pattern," 
he said. "Theories designed to avoid the beginning of the universe have either turned out to be 
untenable, like the Steady State theory, or else they imply the very beginning of the universe that 
their proponents have been desperately trying to avoid." 

"So the future of this cyclic scenario is ... what?" 

"It will probably provide grist for further exploration," he said. "Still, another prominent 
inflation theorist, Andre Linde, said this concept has been very popular among journalists and 
very unpopular among cosmologists." 

"Speaking of Linde," I said, "he proposed another theory, called chaotic inflation, that would 
eliminate the need for a beginning point." 

"That's right," Craig said. "He speculated that maybe inflation this rapid expansion of the 
universe-never really quits. He said maybe the universe expands like a balloon, and when it 
reaches a certain point, then inflation is spawned off of it and begins to expand, and then 
something expands off of that. So you have inflation begetting inflation begetting inflation, and it 
goes on forever. The obvious question, then, is this: could inflation be eternal in the past? Could 
every inflationary domain be the creation of a prior domain so that the universe is an eternally 
inflating and self- reproducing entity?" 

"Is that possible?" 

"I'm afraid not. As I said earlier, a universe that is eternally inflating toward the future cannot 
be past eternal. Two prominent physicists demonstrated that as far back as 1994. There has to be 
a beginning at some point in the indefinite past. In Linde's response, he admitted they were 

I thought about another popular alternative: quantum models of the universe, like Edward 
Tryon's, which I mentioned earlier. There are several variations, but basically they claim that our 
universe is part of a bigger mother universe, which is made up of a quantum vacuum where 
fluctuations occur and turn into baby universes. Our universe is one of these offspring. While our 
universe is expanding, the bigger mother universe is infinite and eternal. 

When I brought up this concept, though, Craig pointed out two fatal problems with it. 
"Remember we said earlier in our conversation that a quantum vacuum isn't nothing, but that it's 
a very active sea of fluctuating energy that itself demands an explanation for how it came into 
being," he said. "What accounts for its beginning? And second, there is a positive-that is, a non- 
zero-probability that a fluctuation would occur and a universe would be spawned at each and 
every point in this quantum vacuum. 

"So if the mother universe were eternal, eventually a universe would have formed at each 
point. Think about that. Finally these universes would be running into each other or coalescing 
until the entire quantum vacuum in the mother universe would be filled with an infinitely old 

universe, which contradicts our observations. That's why this model hasn't survived. 


Most developments in cosmology live an obscure existence within the pages of arcane 
scientific journals, with only a few-often, the most outlandish ones-receiving even the briefest 
mention in the popular press. Luminaries in the field, such as Linde and Guth, are hardly 
household names. But when Stephen William Hawking speaks, the public listens. 

A theoretical physicist who is currently the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at 
Cambridge University, a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton, Hawking has become a science 
icon. He has sold millions of copies of A Brief History of Time, although Business Week once 
quipped that the book is "the least-read best-seller ever." 40 His celebrity status was validated 
when he achieved cartoon form on The Simpsons and played a cameo role on Star Trek, where he 
challenged a holographic Einstein to a game of chess. 

Hawking, who uses a wheelchair for mobility and a synthesizer for speech due to a 
progressive neuromuscular disease, has been on a quest for the elusive Theory of Everything, 
which would unify general relativity with quantum theory. Along the way, he has proposed a 
quantum gravity model for the universe that he says eliminates the need for a singularity-that is, 
the Big Bang. 

When actress Shirley MacLaine asked Hawking whether he believes God created the 
universe, he replied simply, "No." 41 He told the BBC: "We are such insignificant creatures on a 
minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred thousand million 
galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us or even notice our 
existence." 42 

In a chapter called "The Origin and Fate of the Universe" in A Brief History of Time, 
Hawking says: "So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But 
if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have 
neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?" 43 

I broached Hawking's theory to Craig. "It sure sounds like he has finally managed to put 
God out of business," I said. "Not quite," replied Craig. 

When I asked him to explain why not, Craig pulled a piece of paper and pen out of his top 
drawer. "Let me draw you two pictures that will clarify what I mean," he said. 

"The standard Big Bang theory can be represented by a cone," he said, drawing what looked 
like an empty sugar cone from BaskinRobbins. "The point of the cone represents the beginning 
of the universe-the singularity where the Big Bang occurred. It's the beginning point, and it has 
a sharp edge to it. 44 The expansion of the universe, as it gets older and grows, is represented by 
the cone's overall expanding shape." 

I nodded that I was tracking with him. Then he took a second sheet of paper and began 
drawing a picture of Hawking's theory. "Hawking's model is like a cone, too, except it doesn't 
come to a point." He drew a picture of what resembled a badminton birdie; instead of coming to 
a sharp point, the end of the cone was rounded. 

"As you can see, there's no singularity. There's no sharp edge. If you were to start at the 
mouth of the cone and go backward in time," he said, his pencil tracing the long side of the cone, 
"you would not come back to a beginning point. You would simply follow the curveand 
suddenly you would find yourself heading forward in time again." 

This was consistent with the way Hawking's biographers envisioned his theory. They said it 
would be like walking northward until you reach the North Pole, and then suddenly, if you keep 

walking, you find yourself heading south. 45 "There is no beginning and no endno boundaries," 
one writer explained. "The universe always was, always is, and always shall be." 46 

Craig put down his pencil. "Presto!" I exclaimed as I looked at his drawing. "No beginning, 
no singularity, no Big Bang-no need for God." 

Craig grimaced. "Let's think about this for a minute before you come to that conclusion," he 


"Has Hawking made a mistake?" I asked. The mere suggestion sounded impossible! 

"I think he has made a philosophical error by thinking that having a beginning entails having a 
beginning point. And that's simply not the case," Craig replied. 

He pointed toward his rendering of Hawking's model. "Granted, there isn't any singular point 
here, but notice this: the universe is still finite in its past. It still has a beginning in the sense that 
something has a finite past duration. In other words, pick an interval of timesay, a second, a 
minute, or a year. For any finite interval of time you pick, there are only a finite number of equal 
intervals prior to that time. And in that sense, Hawking's model has a beginning. Even he says 
that the universe has an origin out of nothing in the sense that there's absolutely nothing that 
comes before it. 

"So this would be an example of a model that has a beginning but doesn't involve a 
singularity. That's what many scientists are trying to come up with, because the laws of physics 
would apply all the way back. They don't break down in a singularity. And that's more palatable 
to them." 

Before I could ask another question, Craig added: "Now, I've been taking Hawking's model at 
face value, but it's also important to note that he is only able to achieve this rounding-off effect 
by substituting "imaginary numbers' for real numbers in his equations." 

"What are imaginary numbers?" 

"They are multiples of the square root of negative one," he said. "In this model, they have the 
effect of turning time into a dimension of space. The problem is that when imaginary numbers 
are employed, they're just computational devices used to grease the equations and get the result 
the mathematician wants. That's fine, but when you want to get a real, physical result, you have 
to convert the imaginary numbers into real ones. But Hawking refuses to convert them. He just 
keeps everything in the imaginary realm." 
"What happens if you convert the numbers into real ones?" 

"Presto, the singularity reappears!" Craig said. "In fact, the singularity is really there the 
whole time; it's just hidden behind the device of so-called imaginary time. Hawking concedes 
this in a subsequent book he co-authored with Roger Penrose. 47 He said he doesn't pretend to be 
describing reality, because he says he doesn't know what reality is. So Hawking himself 
recognizes that this is not a realistic description of the universe or its origin; it's merely a 
mathematical way of modeling the beginning of the universe in such a manner that the 
singularity doesn't appear." 

I was amazed! Even though Hawking's Internet site says his theory implies that the universe 
"was completely determined by the laws of science," 48 even he wasn't able to successfully write 
God out of the picture. 

"What's important to understand, Lee, is how reversed the situation is from, say, a hundred 
years ago," Craig continued. "Back then, Christians had to maintain by faith in the Bible that 
despite all appearances to the contrary, the universe was not eternal but was created out of 

nothing a finite time ago. Now, the situation is exactly the opposite. 

"It is the atheist who has to maintain, by faith, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, that 
the universe did not have a beginning a finite time ago but is in some inexplicable way eternal 
after all. So the shoe is on the other foot. The Christian can stand confidently within biblical 
truth, knowing it's in line with mainstream astrophysics and c osmology. It's the atheist who feels 
very uncomfortable and marginalized today." 

As I sat there in Craig's office, my mind could conjure up no rational scenario that could 
derail the inexorable logic of the kalam argument. The philosophical and scientific evidence of 
contemporary cosmology was pointing persuasively toward the conclusion that a personal 
Creator of the universe does exist. This was powerful stuffand I still had a long way to go in my 

I wondered, however, how a cosmologist or physicist might respond to Craig. As compelling 
as the kalam argument undeniably is, does it really have the potential to change the mind of a 
scientist? Or would it merely become fodder for more and more creative-or, as some might say, 
desperate-counter-arguments and objections? Christians often caution that a skeptic cannot be 
argued into the faith. Yet if someone were sincerely open-minded, could Craig's case be suf- 
ficient to prompt a personal verdict in favor of God? 

I mused about this aloud to Craig. He thought for a moment and then launched into a 
fascinating story about a doctoral dissertation, a handmade booklet, and a changed life. 


While in Germany to pursue his second doctorate, Bill and his wife, Jan, were attending a 
convention of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, a prestigious German organization 
devoted to promoting international research cooperation between scholars. While chatting with 
various scientists, they met a prominent Eastern European physicist, who described for them how 
physics had destroyed her belief in God. 

"She said that now when she looks at the world, all she sees is darkness without and darkness 
within," Craig recalled. "I remember how that struck me so forcefully. What a description of the 
modern world's predicament-utter meaninglessness and despair. 

"Suddenly, Jan spoke up. "You should read Bill's doctoral dissertation," she said. v He uses 
physics to prove the existence of God.'" 

Craig's eyes got wide as he relived the scene. "My first thought was, v Oh, no! What is this 
famous physicist going to say?' But she replied that, yes, she would be very interested in reading 

"So we gave her a copy of my dissertation on the kalam cosmological argument- the very 
kind of material we've been discussing today, Lee. As she read it over the coming days, she 
started to get more and more excited. She told me, V I know these people you're quoting! These 
are my colleagues!' Finally, she returned the dissertation to us and announced, V I now believe in 
the existence of God. Thank you so much for restoring my faith in him.' 

"We were thrilled! We said, "Would you like to know him in a personal way?' She was a bit 
hesitant, but she said, 'Uh, of course.' So we asked her to meet us that night in the local 

"That afternoon Jan and I prepared a little handwritten version of the Four Spiritual Laws, 
which spell out how a person can become a follower of Jesus. 49 When we sat down with her at 
the meal that night, we opened the booklet and read the first sentence: "Just as there are physical 
laws that govern the physical universe, so there are spiritual laws that govern your relationship 

with God.' And she said, v Oh, physical laws! Spiritual laws! This is something I can understand! 
This is just for me!' 

"Finally, we got to the point in the booklet that asks whether God is outside of your life or on 
the throne of your life. She clamped her hand over the booklet and said, 'Ah, this is so personal! I 
just can't answer at this time.' We said, "That's all right. Let us just explain how you can receive 
Christ as your personal savior.' We described how she could pray to ask God to forgive her 
wrongdoing and to receive Jesus as her forgiver and leader. After that, we let her take the booklet 
home with her. 

"Well, the next day when we saw her, her face was just radiant with joy! She told us she had 
gone home that night and there in her room had prayed to give her life to Christ. Then she took 
all her tranquilizers and booze and flushed them down the toilet! 

"We gave her a copy of the New Testament and parted ways for several months. When we 
saw her later at another convention, we wondered what the status of her faith would be. But she 
had the same joy, the same radiance, and she greeted us with love and told us that her most 
precious possessions were her New Testament and her handmade Four Spiritual Laws." 

Bill smiled. "You asked whether God can use cosmology to change the life of a scientist," he 
said. "Yes, I've seen it. I've seen it happen with all kinds of skeptics. Once I gave a talk at a 
college in Canada on the kalam argument. Afterward a student said, "I've been an agnostic all my 
life. I've never heard anything like this. I now believe that God exists! I can hardly wait to go 
share this with my brother, who's an atheist.'" 

Craig glanced out the window as he pondered what else to say. Then he turned to me once 
more. "Certainly there have been earlier ages when the culture was more sympathetic toward 
Christianity," he said. "But I think it's indisputable that there has never been a time in history 
when the hard evidence of science was more confirmatory of belief in God than today." 

I leaned over and punched the "stop" button on my recorder. I couldn't think of a better segue 
to my next interview. Now that Craig had made a powerful case for God as Creator of the 
universe, it was time to consider the laws and parameters of physics. Is there any credibility, I 
wondered, to the claim that they have been tuned to an incomprehensible precision in order to 
create a livable habitat for humankind? 


More Resources on This Topic 

Craig, William Lane. "Design and the Cosmological Argument." In Mere Creation, ed. 
William A. Dembski. Downer's Grove, 111.: InterVarsity, 1998. 

. Reasonable Faith. Wheaton, 111.: Crossway, revised edition, 1994. 
, and Quentin Smith. Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology. Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1993. 
Moreland, J. P and Kai Nielsen. Does God Exist? Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1993. 




It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so 
sensitive to minor alterations in numbers, has been rather carefully thought out.... The 
seemingly miraculous concurrence of these numerical values must remain the most 
compelling evidence for cosmic design. 

Physicist Paul Davies 

Would it not be strange if a universe without purpose accidentally created humans who 
are so obsessed with purpose? 

Sir John Templeton. 

He became a spiritual skeptic when he learned about Darwinism as a student. He worked for a 
while at a major Chicago newspaper and went to graduate school at an Ivy League university. 
Spurred by his wife's Christianity, he later began investigating the evidence for a Creator. With 
his mind opened by the facts, he ended up shedding his atheism and embracing God, eventually 
writing a book that recounted his intellectual journey to faith. 

If that sounds like my story, it is 3 -but, coincidentally, it's also the story of Patrick Glynn, a 
former arms-control negotiator for the Reagan administration and currently the associate director 
of the George Washington University Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies in Washington, 

Glynn first encountered evolutionary theory while a student in parochial school, immediately 
recognizing that it was incompatible with the Bible. "I stood up in class and told the poor nun as 
much," he recalled. 

Convinced that reason was "the only path to truth," Glynn became a confirmed atheist by the 
time he received his doctorate from Harvard University in the 1970s. "Darwin had demonstrated 
that it was not even necessary to posit a God to explain the origin of life," he said. "Life, and the 
human species itself, was the outcome of essentially random mechanisms operating over the 

After marrying a Christian and finding himself in frequent debates with her over spiritual 
matters, Glynn said his mind "became sufficiently open" so that he was willing to check out 
whether there was any rational evidence for the existence of God. He was hardly prepared for 
what he would learn: 

Gradually, I realized that in the twenty years since I opted for philosophical atheism, a 

vast, systematic literature had emerged that not only cast deep doubt on, but also, from 
any reasonable perspective, effectively refuted my atheistic outlook.... Today, it seems to 
me, there is no good reason for an intelligent person to embrace the illusion of atheism or 
agnosticism, to make the same intellectual mistakes I made. 4 

What evidence was responsible for this stunning spiritual turnaround? Among the most 
influential discoveries he encountered in his investigation was the so-called "anthropic 
principle." The term, derived from the Greek word anthropos for "man," was coined by Cam- 
bridge physicist Brandon Carter, who delivered a ground-breaking paper called "Large Number 
Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology" at a prestigious scientific conference in 

The principle, as Glynn learned, essentially says that "all the seemingly arbitrary and 
unrelated constants in physics have one strange thing in common-these are precisely the values 
you need if you want to have a universe capable of producing life. 

In his subsequent book God: The Evidence, Glynn credits the absolutely incredible fine- 
tuning of the cosmos as being among the key reasons why he concluded that the universe must 
have been the handiwork of a master designer. 

"As recently as twenty-five years ago, a reasonable person weighing the purely scientific 
evidence on the issue would likely have come down on the side of skepticism. That is no longer 
the case," he said. "Today the concrete data point strongly in the direction of the God hypothesis. 
It is the simplest and most obvious solution to the anthropic puzzle." 


Alister McGrath, the erudite theologian who studied molecular biophysics at Oxford and 
wrote the ambitious three- volume series A Scientific Theology, has a penchant for penetrating to 
the core of complex issues. In the case of the anthropic principle, he managed to summarize the 
essential challenge in two succinct questions, which he posed with a dash of British 
understatement: "Is it a pure coincidence that the laws of nature are such that life is possible? 
Might this not be an important clue to the nature and destiny of humanity?'" 

Those two questions formed my roadmap as I sought fresh answers concerning how and why 
physics so precariously balances life on a razor's edge. I already knew that an increasing number 
of scientists and philosophers have been following the clues to their own conclusions in recent 
decades, including "some who are innocent of any influence from a conventional religious 
agenda," in the words of physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne. 8 

"It is quite easy to understand why so many scientists have changed their minds in the past 
thirty years, agreeing that the universe cannot reasonably be explained as a cosmic accident," 
said Walter Bradley, coauthor of The Mystery of Life's Origin. "Evidence for an intelligent 
designer becomes more compelling the more we understand about our carefully crafted habitat." 

For instance, the once- skeptical Paul Davies, the former professor of theoretical physics at 
the University of Adelaide, is now convinced that there must be a purpose behind the universe. 

"Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the 
physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely 
as a brute fact," he said in his book The Mind of God. "I cannot believe that our existence in this 
universe is a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic 
drama. 10 

Saying that "many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or 
design argument," cosmologist Edward Harrison has come to this conclusion: "The fine tuning 

of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design." 

The eminent astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle put it this way: "I do not believe that any 
scientists who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear 
physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside 
stars." 12 

That observation, and others like it from Hoyle, prompted Harvard astronomy professor 
Owen Gingerich, senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, to comment: 
"Fred Hoyle and I differ on lots of questions, but on this we agree: a common sense and 
satisfying interpretation of our world suggests the designing hand of a superintelligence." 1 3 

Oxford-educated John Leslie, who catalogues many anthropic examples in his eye-opening 
1989 book Universes, said he believes that if ours is the only universe-and there are no scientific 
data proving any others exist-then the fine tuning is "genuine evidence ... that God is real." 

In their book The New Story of Science, Robert Augros and George Stanciu sum up the 
inferences of the amazing confluence of "coincidences" that make life possible in the cosmos. "A 
universe aiming at the production of man implies a mind directing it," they said. "Though man is 
not at the physical center of the universe, he appears to be at the center of its purpose." 15 

Those conclusions aside, I was looking for my own personal answers to the fundamental 
questions posed by McGrath. I wanted not only to explore the scientific evidence for the 
universe's precarious balancing act, but I also wanted to see if the anthropic principle could 
survive the challenge of a hypothesis which, according to some skeptics, may very well render it 

While studying the fine-tuning issue, I came across the writings of an articulate, physics- 
trained philosopher who has done his own original research on the issue. I especially liked his 
reputation-he was known as being careful and conservative in his calculations, unwilling to make 
judgments that exceed the bounds of the data. In short, just what I was looking for. 

A few phone calls later, I was on a plane for Pennsylvania and a picturesque campus of 
redbrick buildings situated not far north of the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg. 


As a seventh-grade student, Robin Collins sent away for several free booklets from the 
Atomic Energy Commission-and a love for physics was born. He went on to earn degrees in 
physics and mathematics at Washington State University (with a grade point average a scant 0.07 
points shy of perfection) and then entered a doctoral program in physics at the University of 
Texas in Austin. 

His other love was philosophy-in fact, it was his third major in college. This expertise came 
in handy while working on his doctorate in an office he shared with a group of graduate students 
that included an atheist and an agnostic. As for Collins, he had been a Christian since his last 
year of high school. 

The four of them ended up sparring late into the night about philosophical and theological 
issues, which Collins found so stimulating that he decided to pursue a doctorate in philosophy at 
the University of Notre Dame. The legendary Alvin Plantinga, perhaps the best American 
philosopher of modern times, supervised Collins's dissertation. 

It was a stray comment by Plantinga in class one day that first exposed Collins to the issue of 
the fine-tuning of the universe. Captivated by the concept, Collins delved deeply into the subject 
and soon found a perfect wedding between his expertise in physics and philosophy. 

Not only did his training in physics equip him to understand the often-complex mathematical 

equations in the field- sometimes prompting him to politely correct the errors of more famous 
scholarsbut his experience in philosophy aided him in formulating rigorous arguments from the 
evidence. Now, after years of research and analysis, he has emerged as one of the most informed 
and persuasive voices on the anthropic principle. 

Collins has written about the topic for numerous books, including God and Design: The 
Teleological Argument and Modern Science; The Rationality of Theism; God Matters: Readings 
in the Philosophy of Religion; Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide; and Reason for the 
Hope Within. Funded by a grant from the Pew Foundation, he's currently completing a book 
titled The Well-Tempered Universe: God, Fine-Tuning, and the Laws of Nature. In addition, he 
has spoken at numerous symposia and conferences at Yale, Concordia, Baylor, Stanford, and 
elsewhere, including a plenary address at the 2003 RussianU.S. conference on God and Physical 
Cosmology held at Notre Dame. 

After serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, Collins has spent the last 
decade doing research, writing, and teaching at Messiah College, where he is currently an 
associate professor of philosophy. That's where I connected with him on a warm Saturday 

Collins's office was so utterly dominated by stacks and shelves and piles and boxes and heaps 
of books that there was nowhere for us to sit, so we commandeered a conference room nearby. 
The room wa s awash in the afternoon sun, which streamed through a large window and created 
dancing pools of light on the carpet. 

Collins removed his green sports coat and tossed it over a chair as we got ready to begin. He 
has curly, rusty-colored hair and a beard, and the lean physique of a runner (he jogs nearly ninety 
minutes a day for exercise and meditation). We sat across a plain table from each other, Collins 
sipping from a mug of his favorite beverage: a concoction of half black and half green tea. 

I was anxious to begin. Collins once said that the facts concerning the universe's remarkable 
"just-so" conditions are widely regarded as "by far the most persuasive current argument for the 
existence of God" 16 -a statement that set a high standard. I pulled out my notebook and started by 
asking him to give me an overview of what the fine-tuning of the cosmos was all about. 


"When scientists talk about the fine-tuning of the universe," Collins said, "they're generally 
referring to the extraordinary balancing of the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and 
the initial conditions of the universe. Our minds can't comprehend the precision of some of them. 
The result is a universe that has just the right conditions to sustain life. The coincidences are 
simply too amazing to have been the result of happenstance-as Paul Davies said, "the impression 
of design is overwhelming.'" 

"I like to use the analogy of astronauts landing on Mars and finding an enclosed biosphere, 
sort of like the domed structure that was built in Arizona a few years ago. At the control panel 
they find that all the dials for its environment are set just right for life. The oxygen ratio is 
perfect; the temperature is seventy degrees; the humidity is fifty percent; there's a system for 
replenishing the air; there are systems for producing food, generating energy, and disposing of 
wastes. Each dial has a huge range of possible settings, and you can see if you were to adjust one 
or more of them just a little bit, the environment would go out of whack and life would be 
impossible. What conclusion would you draw from that?" 

The answer was obvious. "That someone took great care in designing and building it," I said. 

"That's right," he replied. "You'd conclude that this biosphere was not there by accident. 

Volcanoes didn't erupt and spew out the right compounds that just happened to assemble 
themselves into the biosphere. Some intelligent being had intentionally and carefully designed 
and prepared it to support living creatures. And that's an analogy for our universe. 

"Over the past thirty years or so, scientists have discovered that just about everything about 
the basic structure of the universe is balanced on a razor's edge for life to exist. The coincidences 
are far too fantastic to attribute this to mere chance or to claim that it needs no explanation. The 
dials are set too precisely to have been a random accident. Somebody, as Fred Hoyle quipped, 
has been monkeying with the physics." 

This has to be among the most fascinating scientific discoveries of the century. "Who first 
noticed this?" I asked. 

"Way back in the late 1950s, Hoyle talked about the precise process by which carbon and 
oxygen are produced in a certain ratio inside stars. If you tinker with the resonance states of 
carbon, you won't get the materials you need for building life. Incidentally, recent studies by the 
physicist Heinz Oberhummer and his colleagues show that just a one-percent change in the 
strong nuclear force would have a thirty- to a thousand-fold impact on the production of oxygen 
and carbon in stars. Since stars provide the carbon and oxygen needed for life on planets, if you 
throw that off balance, conditions in the universe would be much less optimal for the existence 
of life. 

"Anyway-back to your question-most of the research and writing about the fine-tuning has 
taken place since the early 1980s. There have been hundreds of articles and books written on it 
from both a technical and popular perspective." 

Physics can get very complicated very quickly. So when I asked Collins to describe one of his 
favorite examples, I was relieved that he chose one that's among the easier to envision. 

"Let's talk about gravity," he said. "Imagine a ruler, or one of those old-fashioned linear radio 
dials, that goes all the way across the universe. It would be broken down into one-inch 
increments, which means there would be billions upon billions upon billions of inches. 

"The entire dial represents the range of force strengths in nature, with gravity being the 
weakest force and the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together in the nuclei 
being the strongest, a whopping ten thousand billion billion billion billion times stronger than 
gravity. 19 The range of possible settings for the force of gravity can plausibly be taken to be at 
least as large as the total range of force strengths. 

"Now, let's imagine that you want to move the dial from where it's currently set. Even if you 
were to move it by only one inch, the impact on life in the universe would be catastrophic." 

"One inch compared to the whole universe?" I asked. "What kind of impact could that have?" 

"That small adjustment of the dial would increase gravity by a billion-fold, " he said. 

"Whoa!" I said. "That sounds like a lot." 

"Actually, it's not," he replied, "Relative to the entire radio dial-that is, the total range of 
force strengths in nature-it's extraordinarily small, just one part in ten thousand billion billion 

"Wow, that puts it into perspective," I said. "What would happen to life?" 

"Animals anywhere near the size of human beings would be crushed," he said. "As 
astrophysicist Martin Rees said, v In an imaginary strong gravity world, even insects would need 
thick legs to support them, and no animals could get much larger.' 20 In fact, a planet with a 
gravitational pull of a thousand times that of the Earth would have a diameter of only forty feet, 
which wouldn't be enough to sustain an ecosystem. Besides which, stars with lifetimes of more 
than a billion years-compared to ten billion years for our sun-couldn't exist if you increase 

gravity by just three thousand times. 

"As you can see, compared to the total range of force strengths in nature, gravity has an 
incomprehensibly narrow range for life to exist. Of all the possible settings on the dial, from one 
side of the universe to the other, it happens to be situated in the exact right fraction of an inch to 
make our universe capable of sustaining life." 

And gravity is just one parameter that scientists have studied. One expert said there are more 
than thirty separate physical or cosmological parameters that require precise calibration in order 
to produce a life- sustaining universe. 21 

As for Collins, he likes to focus on gravity and a handful of other examples that he has 
personally investigated and which he believes are sufficient by themselves to establish the case 
for a designer. I decided to ask Collins about another parameter-the so-called "cosmological 
constant" a phenomenon so bewildering that it even boggles the mind of one of the world's most 
skeptical scientists. 


Nobel-winning physicist Steven Weinberg, an avowed atheist, has expressed amazement at 
the way the cosmological constant-the energy density of empty space-is "remarkably well 
adjusted in our favor." 22 The constant, which is part of Einstein's equation for General Relativity, 
could have had any value, positive or negative, "but from first principles one would guess that 
this constant should be very large," Weinberg said. 

Fortunately, he added, it isn't: 

If large and positive, the cosmological constant would act as a repulsive force that 
increases with distance, a force that would prevent matter from clumping together in the 
early universe, the process that was the first step in forming galaxies and stars and planets 
and people. If large and negative, the cosmological constant would act as an attractive 
force increasing with distance, a force that would almost immediately reverse the 
expansion of the universe and cause it to recollapse. 23 

Either way, life loses-big time. But astonishingly, that's not what has happened. 

"In fact," Weinberg said, "astronomical observations show that the cosmological constant is 
quite small, very much smaller than would have been guessed from first principles." 24 

When I asked Collins about this, he told me that the unexpected, counterintuitive, and 
stunningly precise setting of the cosmological constant "is widely regarded as the single greatest 
problem facing physics and cosmology today." 

"How precise is it?" I asked. 

Collins rolled his eyes. "Well, there's no way we can really comprehend it," he said. "The 
fine-tuning has conservatively been estimated to be at least one part in a hundred million billion 
billion billion billion billion. That would be a ten followed by fifty-three zeroes. That's 
inconceivably precise." 

He was right-I couldn't imagine a figure like that. "Can you give me an illustration?" I asked. 
"Put it this way," he said. "Let's say you were way out in space and were going to throw a 
dart at random toward the Earth. It would be like successfully hitting a bull's eye that's one 
trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter. That's less than the size of one solitary atom." 

Breathtaking was the word that came into my mind. Staggering. "No wonder scientists have 
been blown away by this," I said. 

"I'll tell you what," Collins said, "in my opinion, if the cosmological constant were the only 
example of fine-tuning, and if there were no natural explanation for it, then this would be 

sufficient by itself to strongly establish design." 

I had to agree. The way I saw it, if the universe were put on trial for a charge of having been 
designed, and the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant were the only evidence introduced by 
the prosecution, I would have to vote "guilty"-assuming there was no hidden naturalistic 
explanation. Statistically, this would be a far stronger case than even the DNA evidence that is 
used to establish guilt in many criminal trials today. 

Collins continued. "Now, think about adding together the evidence for just the two factors 
I've discussed so far- the cosmological constant and the force of gravity," he said. "This would 
create an unimaginably stronger case. When you combine the two, the fine-tuning would be to a 
precision of one part in a hundred million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. That 
would be the equivalent of one atom in the entire known universe!" 

And Collins wasn't through. "There are other examples of fine-tuning," he said. "For instance, 
there's the difference in mass between neutrons and protons. Increase the mass of the neutron by 
about one part in seven hundred and nuclear fusion in stars would stop. There would be no 
energy source for life. 

"And if the electromagnetic force were slightly stronger or weaker, life in the universe would 
be impossible. Or consider the strong nuclear force. Imagine decreasing it by fifty percent, which 
is tinyone part in ten thousand billion billion billion billion, compared to the total range of force 
"What would happen if you tinkered with it by that amount?" 

"Since like charges repel, the strong nuclear force would be too weak to prevent the repulsive 
force between the positively charged protons in atomic nuclei from tearing apart all atoms except 
hydrogen," he said. "And regardless of what they may show on Star Trek you can't have 
intelligent life forms built from hydrogen. It simply doesn't have enough stable complexity." 

I knew Collins could go on and on, but I needed a way to visualize the implications of these 
increasingly abstract concepts. "Go back to your Martian biosphere illustration," I said. 

"Okay," he replied. "Set aside the issue of how the biosphere got there in the first place. Let's 
say when you found it, there were twelve dials that controlled the conditions inside the dome. 
Each dial had an incredibly huge range of possible settings. When you departed, you left the 
dials at random and as a result no life was possible in the biosphere. 

"Then you come back a year later. When you look at the dials, you're amazed to find that each 
one of them has been carefully calibrated to just the right setting so that life is flourishing in the 
dome. Twelve dials, twelve different factors-all optimally set for life. 

"Do you know what the headline would be in the newspaper the next day? It would say: 
EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE EXISTS. We would take that as proof that an intelligent being 
had landed and set those dials precisely where they needed to be for life. 

"And I'm saying that the dials for the fundamental properties of the universe have been set 
like that. In fact, the precision is far greater. This would be totally unexpected under the theory 
that random chance was responsible. However, it's not unexpected at all under the hypothesis 
that there is a Grand Designer." 


Few concepts stretch the mind as much as the fine-tuning of the universe. For example, 
Oxford physicist Roger Penrose said one parameter, the "original phase-space volume," required 
fine-tuning to an accuracy of one part in ten billion multiplied by itself one hundred and twenty 
three times. Penrose remarked that it would be impossible to even write down that number in 

full, since it would require more zeroes than the number of elementary particles in the entire 
universe! This showed, he said, "the precision needed to set the universe on its course." 25 

As Discover magazine marveled: "The universe is unlikely. Very unlikely. Deeply, shockingly 
unlikely. " 

In light of the infinitesimal odds of getting all the right dial settings for the constants of 
physics, the forces of nature, and other physical laws and principles necessary for life, it seems 
fruitless to try to explain away all of this fine-tuning as merely the product of random 

"As long as we're talking about probabilities, then theoretically you can't rule out the 
possibility-however remote-that this could occur by chance," Collins said. 

"However, if I bet you a thousand dollars that I could flip a coin and get heads fifty times in a 
row, and then I proceeded to do it, you wouldn't accept that. You'd know that the odds against 
that are so improbable-about one chance in a million billion-that it's extraordinarily unlikely to 
happen. The fact that I was able to do it against such monumental odds would be strong evidence 
to you that the game had been rigged. And the same is true for the fine-tuning of the universe- 
before you'd conclude that random chance was responsible, you'd conclude that there is strong 
evidence that the universe was rigged. That is, designed. 

"I'll give you another illustration," he continued. "Let's say I was hiking in the mountains and 
came across rocks arranged in a pattern that spelled out, WELCOME TO THE MOUNTAINS 
ROBIN COLLINS. One hypothesis would be that the rocks just happened to be arranged in that 
configuration, maybe as the result of an earthquake or rockslide. You can't totally rule that out. 
But an alternative hypothesis would be that my brother, who was visiting the mountains before 
me, arranged the rocks that way. 

"Quite naturally, most people would accept the brother theory over the chance theory. Why? 
Because it strikes us as supremely improbable that the rocks would be arranged that way by 
chance, but not at all improbable that my brother would place them in that pattern. That's a quite 
reasonable assumption. 

"In a similar way, it's supremely improbable that the fine-tuning of the universe could have 
occurred at random, but it's not at all improbable if it were the work of an intelligent designer. So 
it's quite reasonable to choose the design theory over the chance theory. We reason that way all 
the time. Were the defendant's fingerprints on the gun because of a chance formation of 
chemicals or because he touched the weapon? Jurors don't hesitate to confidently conclude that 
he touched the gun if the odds against chance are so astronomical." 

While random chance was insufficient to explain away the anthropic "coincidences," perhaps 
there were other alternatives to the conclusion that the universe was the handiwork of a designer. 
It was time to put some of those to the test. 

"What if there's some undiscovered principle that makes the universe the way it is?" I asked. 
"Maybe the elusive Theory of Everything that physicists have been seeking for so long will turn 
out to require the parameters of physics to have exactly the values they do." 

Collins was unperturbed by the idea. "It wouldn't bother me a bit," he replied. "It simply 
moves the improbability of the fine-tuning up one level." 

"What do you mean?" 

"It would really be amazing if this Grand Unified Theory-out of the incredible range of 
possibilities-managed to force all the finetuning dials to where they just happened to create a 
life- sustaining universe," he said. "It would be like some predetermined law at the outset of the 
universe caused everything to fall into place so that when I came to the mountain, I saw a pattern 


"So," I said, "this wouldn't destroy the argument for intelligent design?" 
"Quite the opposite," he replied. "It would amplify it, because it would show that the designer 
was even more ingenious than we first thought. As difficult as it would be to fine-tune the 
universe by adjusting all of the individual dials, it would be even more difficult to create an 
underlying law of nature that then forced all the dials into those specific positions. All that would 
do would be to make me even more in awe of the Creator." 

Some skeptics have attacked the fine-tuning argument from another direction, raising what 
has become known as the Weak Anthropic Principle. According to this idea, if the universe were 
not fine-tuned for life, then human beings wouldn't be around to observe it. Consequently, they 
contend that the fine-tuning requires no explanation. 

"You have to admit, there's a certain intuitive appeal to that," I said to Collins. 
"I think John Leslie had the best answer to that," he replied. "Suppose you were standing 
before a firing squad of fifty highly trained marksmen who were all aiming directly at your chest 
from a short distance away. You heard the order, "Ready! Aim! Fire!' But you didn't feel 
anything. You remove your blindfold and see you're still very much alive. Not one bullet hit you. 
"Now, you wouldn't allow the skeptic to simply dismiss the situation by saying, v Oh well, if 
they had shot you, you wouldn't be here 

to comment on the situation.' No-the circumstances are still Surprising and they would still 
demand an explanation. Did they conspire together to miss you? Was this a mock execution? 
And the sam e thing is true for the fine-tuning of the universe. It still demands an explanation. 
My assessment is that the best explanation is a designer." 

Despite Collins's confidence, however, a more serious threat to the fine-tuning argument has 
been raised by some scientists in recent years. Many scientists would say that the so-called 
"many-universe s hypothesis" looms as the most formidable challenge to the conclusion that the 
universe was crafted with artful precision by a transcendent designer. That, I decided, would be 
my next line of questioning. 


Spiritual skeptic Martin Rees, who became a professor of astronomy at Cambridge when he 
was in his thirties and was named Astronomer Royal by Queen Elizabeth in 1995, could not 
ignore how the cosmic parameters are so incredibly choreographed to create a life-friendly 
universe. If the six numbers that underlie the fundamental physical properties of the universe 
were altered "even to the tiniest degree," he said, "there would be no stars, no complex ele 
ments, no life." 27 

Declared Rees: "The expansion speed, the material content of the universe, and the strengths 
of the basic forces, seem to have been a prerequisite for the emergence of the hospitable cosmic 
habitat in which we live." 

One author nicely encapsulated this example from Rees: 

For the universe to exist as it does requires that hydrogen be converted to helium in a 
precise but comparatively stately manner-specifically, in a way that converts seven one- 
thousandths of its mass to energy. Lower that value very slightly-from 0.007 percent to 
0.006 percent, say-and no transformation could take place: the universe would consist of 
hydrogen and nothing else. Raise the value very slightly-to 0.008 percent-and bonding 
would be so wildly prolific that the hydrogen would long since have been exhausted. In 

either case, with the slightest tweaking of the numbers the universe as we know and need 
it would not be here. 29 

When the other five numbers that represent "the deep forces that shape the universe" are 
taken into consideration, said Rees, the uni v erse's structure becomes "unlikely to an absurd 
degree." 30 

Still, is Rees surprised by the universe's exquisitely precarious balancing act? No. Does he 
believe the fine-tuning points to a designer? Not at all. Why? He answers by using the 
illustration of a large off-the-rack clothing store. 

"If there is a large stack of clothing, you're not surprised to find a suit that fits," he said. "If 
there are many universes, each governed by a different set of numbers, there will be one where 
there is a particular set of numbers suitable to life. We are in that one." 

The argument can be summarized this way: "There could have been millions and millions of 
different universes, each created with different dial settings of the fundamental ratios and 
constants, so many in fact that the right set was bound to turn up by sheer chance. We just 
happened to be the lucky ones." 32 

In other words, if ours is the only universe in existence, then the fine-tuning is powerful- 
many would say, conclusive-evidence that an intelligence had tinkered with the dials. There 
seems to be no other reasonable possibility. But that conclusion evaporates if there are many or 
an infinite number of universes. With enough random dial spinning, the odds are that at least 
one-our own-would win the cosmic lottery and be a livable habitat. 

Rees is not the only skeptic to escape the theistic implications of the finely tuned universe by 
speculating about the existence of other worlds. In fact, that's exactly the approach Weinberg 
took after expressing amazement at the unexpected precariousness of the cosmological 
constant. 33 

Many physicists subscribe to some sort of multiple universe, or "multiverse," theory, 
although others scoff at the idea, charging that it's little more than a metaphysical escape hatch to 
avoid the fine-tuning evidence for a designer. Said one writer: 

Originally the many-worlds hypothesis was proposed for strictly scientific reasons as a 
solution to the so-called quantum-measurement problem in physics. Though its efficacy 
as an explanation within quantum physics remains controversial among physicists, its use 
there does have an empirical basis. More recently, however, it has been employed to 
serve as an alternate non-theistic explanation for the fine-tuning of the physical constants. 
This use of the [hypothesis] does seem to betray a metaphysical desperation , 34 

"It's purely a concept, an idea, without scientific proof," William Lane Craig, coauthor of 
Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology, told me in an interview. "Look-this is pure 
metaphysics. 3 ' There's no real reason to believe such parallel worlds exist. The very fact that 
skeptics have to come up with such an outlandish theory is because the fine-tuning of the 
universe points powerfully toward an intelligent designer-and some people will hypothesize 
anything to avoid reaching that conclusion." 36 

Similarly, Cambridge's Polkinghorne, a former professor of mathematical physics, has called 
the hypothesis "pseudo-science" and "a metaphysical guess." 37 He put it this way in his book 
Science and Theology: "The many universes account is sometimes presented as if it were purely 
scientific, but in fact a sufficient portfolio of different universes could only be generated by 
speculative processes that go well beyond what sober science can honestly endorse." 38 

Davies has concluded that "the many-universes theory can at best explain only a limited 

range of features, and then only if one appends some metaphysical assumptions that seem no less 
extravagant than design." 39 Observed Clifford Longley: "The sight of scientific atheists clutching 
at such desperate straws has put new spring in the step of theists." 40 

Rees conceded the tenuous nature of the multiverse theory in a 2000 interview with a science 
journalist. Rees admitted the calculations are "highly arbitrary" (though he suggests someday 
they might not be), and that the theory itself "hangs on assumptions," remains speculative, and is 
not amenable to direct investigation. "The other universes are unavailable to us, just as the 
interior of a black hole is unavailable," he said. He added that we cannot even know if the uni- 
verses are finite or infinite in number. Even so, he said the multiverse theory "genuinely lies 
within the province of science." 41 

All of this was swirling in my mind as I prepared to question Collins on the possibility that a 
multi-universe scenario could extinguish the evidence for a designer of our universe. I was 
genuinely curious: Can the hypothesis provide a reasonable refuge for skeptics who balk at the 
idea of God? Or would the anthropic argument withstand the challenge? 


I have to admit that I was taken aback by Collins's initial response when I asked him about the 
viability of the many-universes hypothesis. 

"Well," he said, taking a sip of tea and putting the mug on the table, "most of these hypotheses 
are entirely speculative and have little basis in physics. They're not worth considering. However, 
the most po pular theory, inflationary cosmology, has more credibility. I have to say that I'm at 
least sympathetic to it. I'm trying to keep an open mind." 

Collins was referring to the "self -reproducing inflationary universe" model proposed by 
Andre Linde of Stanford University, which is based on advanced principles of quantum physics. 
This was the theory that Weinberg cited when he tried to explain away the apparent fine-tuning 
of the cosmological constant. In a stunning example of understatement, one science writer said 
that Linde's concept "defies easy visualization." 42 However, at the risk of too much simplicity, a 
basic illustration can be used. 

Linde postulates a preexisting superspace that is rapidly expanding. A small part of this 
superspace is blown up by a theoretical inflaton field, sort of like soap bubbles forming in an 
infinite ocean full of dish detergent. Each bubble becomes a new universe. In what's known as 
"chaotic inflation theory," a huge number of such universes are randomly birthed, thanks to 
quantum fluctuations, along various points of superspace. Thus, each universe has a beginning 
and is finite in size, while the much larger superspace is infinite in size and endures forever. 

I mentioned to Collins that in an earlier interview on cosmology, William Lane Craig had 
little use for this kind of theory. "Granted, it's highly speculative," Collins said. "There are an 
awful lot of loose ends with it. But since it's by far the most popular theory today-and I believe it 
should be taken seriously-let's not critique it right now. Let's just make the assumption that it's 

"All right," I said, nodding. "That's fine." 

"Now, here's my overarching point: even if Linde's theory could account for the existence of 
many universes, this would not destroy the case for design. It would just kick the issue up 
another level. In fact, I believe it would point toward design." 

That was an interesting twist! "Why do you believe that?" I asked. 

"I'll use an everyday example," he said. "My wife and I have a bread-making machine. 
Actually, it's defunct now, but we used to use it. To make edible bread, we first needed this well- 

designed machin e that had the right circuitry, the right heating element, the right timer, and so 
forth. Then we had to put in the right ingredients in the right proportions and in the right order- 
water, milk, flour, shortening, salt, sugar, yeast. The flour had to have the right amount of a 
protein substance called gluten, or else it would need to be added. 43 Everything has to be just 
right to produce a loaf of bread-otherwise, you get what looks like a burnt hockey puck. 

"Now, let's face it: a universe is far more complex than a loaf of bread. My point is that if a 
bread machine requires certain specific parameters to be set in order to create bread, then there 
has to be a highly designed mechanism or process to produce functional universes. In other 
words, regardless of which multiple-universe theory you use, in every case you'd need a 'many- 
universes generator'-and it would require the right structure, the right mechanism, and the right 
ingredients to churn out new universes. 

"Otherwise," he said, stifling a chuckle, "you'd end up with a cosmic hockey puck!" 


Collins pushed back his chair and walked over to a chalkboard on the wall. "My students get 
a kick out of it when I draw a "many universes generator,'" he said, sketching a whimsical 
cartoon of a manufacturing machine, complete with a billowing smokestack and a conveyor belt 
that brought in raw materials and then carried freshly minted universes out the other side. 

"This machine," he said, putting the finishing touches on his artwork, "can only produce life- 
sustaining universes if it has the right components and mechanisms." 

I leaned back and scrutinized his drawing. "What would you need, say, under Linde's 
theory?" I asked. 

"First," Collins said as he strolled back to his chair, "you'd need a mechanism to supply the 
energy needed for the bubble universes. That would be the inflaton field that he has 
hypothesized, which effectively acts like a reservoir of unlimited energy. Second, he would 
need a mechanism to form the bubbles. This would be Einstein's equation of general relativity. 
Because of its peculiar form, this would supposedly cause the bubble universes to form and the 
ocean to keep expanding. 

"Third, he would need a mechanism to convert the energy of the inflaton field to the normal 
mass/energy that we find in our universe. F urth, he would need a mechanism to allow enough 
variation in the constants of physics among the various universes. In other words, he would need 
a way to vary the constants of physics so that by random chance he would produce some 
universes, like ours, that have the right fine-tuning to sustain life." 

"Is there a candidate for that mechanism?" I asked. 

"Well, yes-superstring theory," he replied. "This might work, though it's far too early to tell." 

When I asked why he brought up superstrings, he explained: "According to superstring 
theory, the ultimate constituents of matter are strings of energy that undergo quantum vibrations 
in ten or eleven dimensions of space-time. Six or seven of these dimensions are "rolled up' to an 
extremely small size. In the jargon of string theory, they are said to be compactified. Their shape 
determines the modes of vibration of the strings. This, in turn, would determine the types and 
masses of fundamental particles and the characteristics of the forces between them. So they 
would have different constants of physics and laws governing the forces." 

"That sounds pretty iffy," I said. 

"Well, both inflationary cosmology and superstring theory are highly speculative. In fact, 
theoretical physicist Michio Kaku said recently that not a shred of experimental evidence' has 
been found to confirm superstrings. 44 Physicists are a long way from even working out the 

equations. Right now it's just a theory whose main merits are that it's mathematically elegant and 
that it holds the promise of unifying quantum mechanics and general relativity, two branches of 
physics that physicists have struggled to reconcile for over fifty years." 

I summed up what Collins had said so far. "So the many-universes generator would need all 
these factors if it ever hoped to produce a functioning universe," I said. 

"Right," he replied. "For example, without Einstein's equation and the inflaton field working 
together harmoniously, it wouldn't work. If the universe obeyed Newton's theory of gravity 
instead of Einstein's, it wouldn't work. But that's not all. 

"You would also have to have the right background laws in place. 
For instance, without the so-called principle of quantization, all of the electrons in an atom 
would be sucked into the atomic nuclei. That would make atoms impossible. Further, as eminent 
Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson has noted, without the Pauli-exclusion principle, electrons 
would occupy the lowest orbit around the nucleus, and that would make complex atoms 
impossible. 45 Finally, without a universally attractive force between all masses-such as gravity- 
stars and planets couldn't form. If just one of these components was missing or different, it's 
highly improbable that any life-permitting universes could be produced. 

"And keep in mind," he added, "you would need to make trillions upon trillions upon 
trillions upon trillions of universes in order to increase the odds that the cosmological constant 
would come out right at least once, since it's finely tuned to an incomprehensible degree. And 
that's just one parameter." 

"What's your conclusion then?" I asked. 

"It's highly unlikely that such a universe-generating system would have all the right 
components and ingredients in place by random chance, just like random chance can't account 
for how a bread-maker produces loaves of edible bread. So if a many-universe-generating system 
exists, it would be best explained by design." 

"That means," I said, "that when scientists appeal to the theoretical existence of many 
universes to avoid the implications of the finetuning of our universe, they still can't escape 

"Exactly," he declared. "Theists have nothing to fear from the idea that there may be multiple 
universes. There would still need to be an intelligent designer to make the finely tuned universe- 
generating process work. To modify a phrase from philosopher Fred Dretske: these are 
inflationary times, and the cost of atheism has just gone up." 


I thought for a few moments about Collins's explanation. Certainly it made sense that 
generating universes would require the right mechanisms, the right ingredients, and the right 
precision-all earmarks of intelligent design. But I was still mentally wrestling with something 
else. To me-admittedly, not a physicist-the whole concept of multiple universes seemed absurd. 

I found myself agreeing with the iconoclastic Gregg Easterbrook, a contributing editor for the 
Atlantic Monthly, who researched the discoveries and theories of modern science. He was 
characteristically blunt in his assessment. "The multiverse idea rests on assumptions that would 
be laughed out of town if they came from a religious text," he wrote. "[The theory] requires as 
much suspension of disbelief as any religion. Join the church that believes in the existence of 
invisible objects fifty billion galaxies wide!' 

When I mentioned my skepticism to Collins, he listened carefully. "There's a reason you feel 
that way," he said. "You see, everything else being equal, we tend to prefer hypotheses that are 

natural extrapolations of what we already know." 

I wasn't sure what he was driving at. "Could you give me an illustration of that?" I asked. 

"Sure," he said. "Let's say you found some dinosaur bones. You would naturally consider 
them to be very strong evidence that dinosaurs lived in the past. Why? Because even though 
nobody has ever seen dinosaurs, we do have the experience of other animals leaving behind 
fossilized remains. So the dinosaur explanation is a natural extrapolation from our common 
experience. It makes sense. 

"Let's say there was a dinosaur skeptic, however. He was trying to rationalize away the bones 
you found. Let's suppose he claimed he could explain the bones by proposing that a'dinosaur- 
bone-producing field' simply caused them to materialize out of thin air." 

"That's ridiculous," I said. 

"And that's exactly what you would tell the skeptic," Collins continued. "You'd say: "Wait a 
second-there are no known laws of physics that would allow that field to conjure up bones out of 
nothing.' But the skeptic would be ready for you. He'd reply, 'Aha-we just haven't discovered 
these laws yet. We simply haven't detected these fields yet. Give us more time, Lee, and I'm sure 
we will.' 

"My guess is that nothing could deter you from inferring that dinosaurs existed, because this 
would be a natural extrapolation from what you already know," Collins concluded. "On the other 
hand, the skeptic needs to invent a whole new set of physical laws and a whole new set of 
mechanisms that are not a natural extrapolation from anything we know or have experienced. 
You wouldn't buy his story. No way." 

"You're saying, then, that an intelligent designer is a natural extrapolation of what we already 

"Yes, I am," he replied. "Think about it, Lee-we already know that intelligent minds produce 
finely tuned devices. Look at the space shuttle. Look at a television set. Look at an internal 
combustion engine. We see minds producing complex, precision machinery all the time. 

"So postulating the existence of a supermind-or God-as the explanation for the fine-tuning 
of the universe makes all the sense in the world. It would simply be a natural extrapolation of 
what we already know that minds can do. And, what's more, unlike the hypothesis that there are 
many universes, we have independent evidence of God's existence, such as a personal 
experience of the Creator and the other sort of evidence you're talking about in your book." 


Collins took his last sip of tea at about the same time I finished my glass of water. "Let's go 
get some refills," he said, motioning for me to follow him down the hall. 

Without students or faculty, the building was eerily quiet, our voices echoing slightly as we 
ambled down the empty corridor. "The day is too beautiful to be spending so much time 
indoors," I commented as we arrived at a self-serve kitchen area. 

"Yeah, perfect for a run," Collins said. 

I filled my glass with water while he blended his tea. Silence prevailed for a few moments, 
then Collins remarked: "Talking about beauty reminds me of another line of reasoning that 
points toward a designer," he said. 

"Really?" I asked. "Tell me about it." 

"Think about the extraordinary beauty, elegance, harmony, and ingenuity that we find in the 
laws of nature," he replied as we headed back to the conference room. 

"Whole books have been written about it. Weinberg once spent an entire chapter explaining 

how the criteria of beauty and elegance have been used to guide physicists in formulating the 
right laws."' The theoretical physicist Alan Guth said that the original construction of the gauge 
theories of fundamental particle physics "was motivated mainly by their mathematical 
elegance.' 4 

"One of the most influential scientists of the twentieth century, Paul Dirac, the Nobel Prize 
winner from Cambridge, even claimed that "it is more important to have beauty in one's 
equations than to have them fit experiment.'" One historian said mathematical beauty was an 
integral part' of Dirac's strategy. He said Dirac believed physicists "first had to select the most 
beautiful mathematics-not necessarily connected to the existing basis of theoretical physics-and 
then interpret them in physical terms.'" 

"A n d you see beauty in the laws and principles of nature?" I asked. 

"Oh. absolutely," he declared. "They're beautiful, and they're also elegant in their simplicity. 
Surprisingly so. When scientists are trying to construct a new law of nature, they routinely look 
for the simplest law that adequately accounts for the data." 

I interrupted with an objection. "Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?" I asked. "What's 
beautiful seems so subjective." 

"Subjectivity can't explain the success of the criterion of beauty in science," he replied. "We 
wouldn't expect purely subjective patterns to serve as the basis of theories that make highly 
accurate predictions, such as the success of quantum electrodynamics to predict the quantum 
correction to the g-factor of the electron. 

"Besides, not all beauty is subjective; there are also objective aspects of it, at least in the 
classical sense. In his book The Analysis of Beauty, written in the mid- 1700s, William Hogarth 
said the defining feature of beauty or elegance is "simplicity with variety.' And that's what 
scientists have found-a world where fundamental simplicity gives rise to the enormous 
complexity needed for life." 

I ventured another alternative. "Maybe the concept of beauty is merely the product of 
evolution," I said. "Perhaps it has survival value, and so our sense of what's beautiful has been 
shaped by natural selection." 

"That would only apply to things we can see, touch, or hearthings in our everyday world that 
are necessary for survival. But evolution can't explain the beauty that exists in the underlying 
world of physical laws and mathematics," he said. 

"In physics, we see an uncanny degree of harmony, symmetry, and proportionality. And we 
see something that I call 'discoverability.' By that, I mean that the laws of nature seem to have 
been carefully arranged so that they can be discovered by beings with our level of intelligence. 
That not only fits the idea of design, but it also suggests a providential purpose for humankind- 
that is, to learn about our habitat and to develop science and technology." 

Collins mentioned that Davies had also commented about the beauty of nature in his book 
Superforce. Later I found the passage: 

A common reaction among physicists to remarkable discoveries ... is a mixture of delight 
at the subtlety and elegance of nature, and of stupefaction: "I would never have thought 
of doing it that way." If nature is so "clever" it can exploit mechanisms that amaze us 
with their ingenuity, is that not persuasive evidence for the existence of intelligent design 
behind the physical universe? If the world's finest minds can unravel only with difficulty 
the deeper workings of nature, how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a 
mindless accident, a product of blind chance? ... Uncovering the laws of physics 
resembles completing a crossword [puzzle] in a number of ways.... In the case of the 

crossword, it would never occur to us to suppose that the words just happened to fall into 
a consistent interlocking pattern by accident.' 1 

"Under an atheistic viewpoint," Collins continued, "there's no reason to expect that the 
fundamental laws would be beautiful or elegant, because they easily could have been otherwise. 
Even Weinberg, who's an atheist, conceded that "sometimes nature seems more beautiful than 
strictly necessary.' 52 

"However, the fine-tuning for simplicity, beauty, and elegance does make sense under the 
God hypothesis. Think of the classical conception of God-he is the greatest possible being, and 
therefore a being with perfect aesthetic sensibility. It wouldn't be surprising at all for God to 
want to create a world of great subtlety and beauty at its most fundamental level." 


We walked back into the conference room, knowing that we were getting close to finishing. 
Collins leaned against the wall, a mug in one hand, the other arm casually folded across his 
chest, while I perched atop the back of a chair, my feet resting on its seat. 

The intersection of faith and physics was a fascinating crossroads to me, and I was curious 
about the impact of Collins's research on his personal life. 

"What has your study of the fine-tuning of the universe done for your faith?" I asked. 

Collins put down his tea. "Oh, it has strengthened it, absolutely," he replied. "Like 
everybody, I've gone through some hard times in life, and all of the scientific evidence for God 
has been an important anchor for me." 

That sounded like science displacing faith. "Isn't that what faith is supposed to do?" I asked. 

"I am taking about faith," he insisted. "God doesn't usually appear supernaturally somewhere 
and say, "Here I am.' He uses preachers to bring people his message of redemption through 
Christ. And sometimes he uses natural means. Romans 1:20 tells us that God's eternal power and 
divine nature can be seen and understood through things that are made, and that this is the reason 
humanity is without excuse. I see physics as uncovering the evidence of God's fingerprint at a 
deeper and more subtle level than the ancients could have dreamed of. He has used physics to 
enable me to see the evidence of his presence and creative ability. The heavens really do declare 
the glory of God, even more so for someone trained with physics and with eyes to see. That has 
been a tremendous encouragement to me. 

"Of course," he continued, "the fine-tuning by itself can't tell us whether God is personal or 
not. We have to find out in other ways. But it does help us conclude that he exists, that he created 
the world, and that therefore the universe has a purpose. He made it very carefully and quite 
precisely as a habitat for intelligent life." 

"How do you assess the persuasiveness of the anthropic evidence?" I asked. 

"It's not conclusive in the sense that mathematics tells us two plus two equals four," he said. 
"Instead, it's a cumulative argument. The extraordinary fine-tuning of the laws and constants of 
nature, their beauty, their discoverability, their intelligibility- all of this combines to make the 
God hypothesis the most reasonable choice we have. All other theories fall short." 

I picked up a newspaper clipping from the conference table, then said to Collins: "The New 
York Times recently published that famous quote by physicist Freeman Dyson, who looked at the 
evidence for fine-tuning and said: "The universe in some sense must have known that we were 
coming.' But then the author added: "This notion horrifies some physicists, who feel it is their 
mission to find a mathematical explanation of nature that leaves nothing to chance or the whim 

of the Creator.' Obviously, that's not how you see the mission of physics, is it?" 53 

"No, not at all," he said. "That attitude reflects an antitheistic bias. I don't mind scientists 
trying to find naturalistic explanations, but I wouldn't say it's the mission of physics to explain 
everything naturalistically. The mission of physics is to pursue a naturalistic explanation as far as 
we can; but since physics can only explain one set of laws by invoking a more fundamental set of 
laws, it can never itself explain the most fundamental laws. Explaining these laws is where one 
moves from physics to metaphysics. Though invoking God may not be strictly part of science, it 
is in the spirit of science to follow the evidence and its implications wherever they lead us. We 
shouldn't shrink back from the God hypothesis if that's what the facts fit." 

He wasn't alone in that perspective. Said Harvard's Gingerich: "I believe that ... the Book of 
Nature, with its astounding details-th e blade of grass, the Conus cedonulli, or the resonance 
levels of the carbon atom-suggests a God of purpose and a God of design. And I think my belief 
makes me no less of a scientist." 54 

With that, one last question came to mind. "As you dig deeper and deeper into physics," I 
said to Collins, "do you have a sense of wonder and awe at what you find?" 

"I really do," he said, a grin breaking on his face. "Not just with the fine-tuning but in lots of 
areas, like quantum mechanics and the ability of our minds to understand the world. The deeper 
we dig, we see that God is more subtle and more ingenious and more creative than we ever 
thought possible. And I think that's the way God created the universe for us-to be full of 


Whichever way I looked, the inference of design seemed inescapable. If ours is the only 
universe in existence, which is a logical conclusion based on the evidence, then its highly 
sophisticated fine-tuning cries out for a designer. On the other hand, if the esoteric theories of 
physicists turn out to be true and our universe is one of many others, then the need for a 
universe-generating mechanism also would demand a designer. 

Heads or tails, the Creator wins. 

As Vera Kistiakowski, professor of physics emerita at the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology and former president of the Association of Women in Science, summarized the 
implications of the evidence: "The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of 
the physical world calls for the divine." 

That was also the conclusion that dissolved Patrick Glynn's atheism. The anthropic evidence, 
he said ... 

.. does offer as strong an indication as reason and science alone could be expected to 
provide that God exists.... Ironically, the picture of the universe bequeathed to us by the 
most advanced twentieth-century science is closer in spirit to the vision presented in the 
Book of Genesis than anything offered by science since Copernicus. 36 

So far, after the one-two punch of my interviews with Craig and Collins, the evidence was 
clearly pointing in that direction. In fact, my imagination was captivated by one particular 

In The Case for Christ, I described the historical evidence for the miracles of Jesus of 
Nazareth, especially his resurrection from the dead. The ability to supernaturally intervene in the 
normal affairs of the world, to momentarily suspend the natural functioning of the universe, is 
certainly powerful affirmation that he is the Son of God. 

However, having heard about the meticulous fine-tuning of the laws of nature, I now realized 
that the everyday functioning of the universe is, in itself, a kind of ongoing miracle. The 
"coincidences" that allow the fundamental properties of matter to yield a habitable environment 
are so improbable, so far-fetched, so elegantly orchestrated, that they require a divine 

In other words, the momentary abrogation of the laws of nature in a sudden, visible, and direct 
way-what we usually call a "miracle"-obviously points toward an all-powerful deity. Yet even if 
God doesn't supernaturally intervene, the otherwise inexplicable fine-tuning of physics, 
operating day in and day out ever since creation, also seems to warrant the term "miraculous." 

And miracles are the province of God. 

I was pondering this thought as Collins and I emerged from the building, taking deep breaths 
of the fragrant autumn air and basking in the sunshine. Looking up, I could see the blazing sun 
on one side of the blue sky and the faint moon on the other. My mind turned from the abstract 
world of physics to the planets and moons and stars and galaxies that populate the universe. 

What other evidence of fine-tuning, I wondered, might be waiting in the cosmos? Could our 
very existence on a life- sustaining rock on the outskirts of the Milky Way tell us anything about 
the Creator who has thus far been so highly suggested by cosmology and physics? 

I made my decision as I drove away from the campus: it was time to quiz an astronomer about 
what we can learn from the mystery and grandeur of the heavens. 


More Resources on This Topic 

Collins, Robin. "The Argument from Design and the ManyWorlds Hypothesis." In Philosophy of 
Religion: A Reader and Guide, ed. William Lane Craig. New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers 
University Press, 2002. 

. "The Evidence for Fine-Tuning." In God and Design: The Teleological Argument and 
Modern Science, ed. Neil Manson. New York: Routledge, 2003. 

. "A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God: The Fine-Tuning Design Argument." 
In Reason for the Hope Within, ed. Michael J. Murray. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 

"The Teleological Argument." In The Rationality of Theism, ed. Paul Copan and Paul 
Moser. New York: Routledge, 2003. 
Dubay, Thomas. The Evidential Power of Beauty. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999. 
Leslie, John. Universes. New York: Routledge, 1989. 




As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency-or, 
rather, Agency-must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have 
stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in 
and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit? 

Astronomer George Greenstein 

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the 
very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one 
which has an underlying (one might say "supernatural") plan. 

Nobel laureate Arno Penzias 

There's nothing unusual about Earth. It's an average, unassuming rock that's spinning 
mindlessly around an unremarkable star in a run-of-the-mill galaxy-"a lonely speck in the great 
enveloping cosmic dark," as the late Carl Sagan put it.' 

The fact that life flourishes on our planet isn't exceptional. Creatures of all kinds undoubtedly 
abound, we're told, in countless locations among the ten trillion billion stars in the universe. 
Some scientists have estimated there are up to ten trillion advanced civilizations. 4 Sagan put the 
number at one million for our Milky Way galaxy alone. 5 

After all, the forces of nature are so automatic that life is sure to have evolved wherever water 
exists. That's why whenever scientists raise new speculation about liquid water being present on 
another celestial body-the underground worlds of Jupiter's frozen moons Europa and Ganymede 
are currently the most fashionable examples then the automatic assumption is that living 
organisms must necessarily and inexorably follow. 

If life can emerge from nonlife so quickly and efficiently on a planet as undistinguished as 
ours, they reason, then why not throughout the universe's hundreds of billions of galaxies? To 
them, life is like a soup mix: just add water! 

The very title of astrobiologist David Darling's recent book nicely encapsulates this 
optimistic philosophy: Life Everywhere.' He's enthusiastic about claims that "life may arise 
inevitably whenever a suitable energy source, a concentrated supply of organic (carbon-based) 
material and water occur together." These ingredients, he said, "are starting to look ubiquitous in 

space. Consequently, he believes microbial life, at least, "is widespread." 

In short, Earth has no privileged status. Polish scientist Nicholas Copernicus deflated our 
oversized ego by putting us in our place long ago-the universe doesn't revolve around us; instead, 
we're just living in a humdrum hamlet off the beaten path in a nondescript suburb of the vast 
Milky Way. We have no grand role, no meaning, no significance, no reason for being other than 
... well, just being. 

"The universe that we observe," said Oxford's Richard Dawkins, "has precisely the properties 
we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but 
blind, pitiless indifference." 

This is the essence of what I was taught as I studied science. Of course, these conclusions 
neatly bolstered my atheistic values. Somehow I managed to avoid getting too depressed by the 
personal implications of all of this, strangely finding hope and inspiration in the belief that we 
are not alone in the universe. Even if God didn't exist, at least there were millions of advanced 
civilizations out there. 


Ever since I first watched the classic movie The Day the Earth Stood Still as a child, I've 
been enthralled by the fanciful images of teeming inter-galactic life portrayed in science fiction. 
Sure, Star Trek and Star Wars were silly-but still, the idea of other exotic creatures living in the 
strange nooks and crannies of the universe was always intriguing and even comforting to me. 

Later I became fascinated by the Drake Equation, an attempt by astronomer Frank Drake to 
quantify the number of civilizations that m ight exist in our galaxy. The equation factors in such 
variables as how many of the two hundred to three hundred billion stars in our Milky Way might 
resemble our own sun, the percentage of stars that ma y have planets in habitable zones, and so 

Though the specific numbers that scientists then plugged into Drake's equation mostly 
amounted to rank conjecture fueled by their own biases-one scientist admitted it was "a way of 
compressing a large amount of ignorance into a small space" 10 -this did lend an air of scientific 
certainty to a highly speculative issue. 

Then I cheered from afar in the mid-1970s as Drake and Sagan beamed a message of greeting 
to the great globular cluster Ml 3, which is a concentration of a quarter million stars in the 
constellation Hercules. While I knew there wasn't much practical science involved with this 
intragalactic phone call-it would take more than twenty-two thousand years for the message to 
reach its destination-nevertheless there was something romantic and adventurous about trying to 
communicate with the civilizations that most assuredly populated those distant stars. 

All of this helped form my perspective as I would gaze over the years at the twinkling stars in 
the dark heavens. But now my attitude was changing. After studying the latest evidence from 
various scientific disciplines-from astronomy to cosmology to geology to oceanography to 
microbiology-my conclusions were being tugged in the opposite direction. 

It's turning out that the Earth is anything but ordinary, that our sun is far from average, and 
that even the position of our planet in the galaxy is eerily fortuitous. The idea that the universe is 
a flourishing hothouse of advanced civilizations is now being undermined by surprising new 
scientific discoveries and fresh thinking. 

In short, new findings are suggesting that we are special. More and more scientists are 
studying the mind-boggling convergence of scores of extraordinary "coincidences" that make 
intelligent life possible on Earth and concluding that this can't possibly be an accident. They're 

seeing signs of design, a kind of unlikely fine-tuning for life similar to the fine-tuning of physics 
that we explored in the previous chapter. 

In fact, said one noted researcher, "new evidence which could potentially have refuted the 
[design] hypothesis has only ended up confirming it."" Once again, we find the evidence of 
science pointing in the direction of a Creator. 

And rather than our lives being purposeless, scientists for the first time are uncovering 
concrete evidence that suggests at least one surprising purpose for which we were created-that 
is, to discover and learn about the surroundings in which we have been placed. 

In other words, as we'll see in this chapter, one purpose for which we were designed is to do 
science itself. 


As the new millennium dawned, geologist Peter D. Ward and astronomer Donald Brownlee, 
both professors at the University of Washington in Seattle, published a provocative and highly 
successful book that raised this disquieting question about Earth: "What if it is utterly unique: 
the only planet with animals in this galaxy or even in the visible universe ... ?" 

Their book, Rare Earth, marshals evidence from a wide range of scientific disciplines to 
build its case that "not only intelligent life, but even the simplest of animal life, is exceedingly 
rare in our galaxy and in the universe." 13 They called the conclusion "inescapable" that "Earth is 
a rare place indeed." 14 

Although Ward and Brownlee uncritically buy into the idea that microbial life may very well 
be more prevalent, a view they draw from the way life seemed to have effortlessly developed on 
Earth "about as soon as environmental conditions allowed its survival," 1 ' their conviction that the 
existence of complex life is "extraordinarily rare" is bolstered by convincing data divorced from 
any theological framework. 

Calling their book "carefully reasoned and scientifically astute," Don Johanson, director of 
the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, remarked: "In spite of our wishful 
thinking, there just may not be other Mozarts or Monets." 16 David Levy, of comet Shoemaker- 
Levy fame, added, "As we know it on Earth, complex life might be very rare, and very 
precious."" Said the Times of London: "//"they are right it could be time to reverse a process that 
has been going on since Copernicus." 18 

More and more scientists are observing the stunning ways in which our planet-against all 
odds-manages to fulfill a large number of finely balanced criteria that are absolutely crucial to 
supporting a habitat s uitable for humankind. 

"Rather than being one planet among billions, Earth now appears to be the uncommon 
Earth," said science educators Jimmy H. Davis and Harry L. Poe. "The data imply that Earth may 
be the only planet in the right place at the right time.'" 1 9 


Earth's location, its size, its composition, its structure, its atmosphere, its temperature, its 
internal dynamics, and its many intricate cycles that are essential to life-the carbon cycle, the 
oxygen cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorous cycle, the sulfur cycle, the calcium cycle, the 
sodium cycle, and so on-testify to the degree to which our planet is exquisitely and precariously 
balanced. 20 

As they begin their influential textbook Earth, Frank Press of the National Academy of 
Sciences and Raymond Siever of Harvard University write about what they call "the uniqueness 

of planet Earth." 21 

They note how its atmosphere filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation while working with the 
oceans to moderate the climate through the storing and redistributing of solar energy, and how 
the Earth is just large enough so that its gravity retains the atmosphere and yet just small enough 
not to keep too many harmful gases. Then they describe the Earth's interior as ... 

...a gigantic but delicately balanced heat engine fueled by radioactivity.... Were it 
running more slowly ... the continents might not have evolved to their present form.... 
Iron may never have melted and sunk to the liquid core, and the magnetic field would 
never have developed.... If there had been more radioactive fuel, and therefore a faster 
running engine, volcanic dust would have blotted out the sun, the atmosphere would have 
been oppressively dense, and the surface would have been racked by daily earthquakes 
and volcanic explosions. 22 

These kind of highly choreographed geological processes-and there are lots of them-leave me 
shaking my head at the astounding ways in which our biosphere is precisely tuned for life. Even 
more interesting, though, is the "why" question behind them. What accounts for all of these 
astounding "coincidences?" 

Press and Siever, while marveling that Earth "is a very special place," don't broach the 
possibility of design. 23 Ward and Brownle e skirt the issue in Rare Earth, preferring instead to 
occasionally p e pper in words like "sheer luck" and "a rare chance happening. " 2 4 At a conference, 
Ward remarked: "We are just incredibly lucky. Somebody had to win the big lottery, and we 
were it." 

But does luck really explain why Earth enjoys this incredible convergence of extremely 
unlikely circumstances that have allowed human beings to flourish? Going far back into time, 
Christians have reached a far different conclusion: Earth was created by God as the stage upon 
which the human drama would be played out. What's amazing about modem science, including 
new discoveries just within the last few years, is that this view of the universe seems to be far 
better supported today than in ancient times. 

Consider the conclusion of Michael J. Denton, a senior research fellow in human molecular 
genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, in his 1998 book Nature's Destiny: 

No other theory or concept ever imagined by man can equal in boldness and audacity this 
great claim ... that all the starry heavens, that every species of life, that every 
characteristic of reality exists [to create a livable habitat] for mankind.... But most 
remarkably, given its audacity, it is a claim which is very far from a discredited 
prescientific myth. In fact, no observation has ever laid the presumption to rest. And 
today, four centuries after the scientific revolution, the doctrine is again reemerging. In 
these last decades of the twentieth century, its credibility is being enhanced by 
discoveries in several branches of fundamental science. 23 

How true are those words? Do the special conditions that allow for life on Earth demand a 
designer? To pursue reliable answers, I arranged a rendezvous at O'Hare International Airport in 
Chicago with two experts who had just collaborated on a ground-breaking book concerning this 
very topic. This would be a perfect opportunity to explore the stunning uniqueness of our planet. 


Tall, blond Jay Wesley Richards, dressed in a navy blazer, is an Ivy League philosopher who 
speaks in rapid-fire bursts with unflagging enthusiasm. Guillermo Gonzalez, clad in a short- 
sleeve shirt, his thinning hair cropped short, is a nuts-and-bolts astronomer who talks in 
professorial tones on such topics as, "Chemical Abundance Trends among RV Tauri Stars." 

Together, they authored The Privileged Planet, which documents astonishing evidence 
pointing toward a designer for Earth-and toward at least one apparent purpose for humankind. 

Gonzalez is informally known as a "star guy." After graduating summa cum laude with 
degrees in astronomy and physics from the University of Arizona, he later earned his master's 
degree and doctorate in astronomy from the University of Washington at Seattle. Now an 
assistant professor at Iowa State University, his research centers on low and intermediate mass 
stars and theories about stellar and planetary evolution. 

He's a hands-on and yet conceptually sophisticated scientist, having logged countless hours 
doing research through telescopes at Cerro Tololo International Observatory, located at an 
altitude of 6,600 feet in Chile, and four other locations. He is adept at analyzing photometric and 
spectroscopic data. A member of the International Astronomical Union and the American 
Scientific Affiliation, the low-key but engaging Gonzalez has seen dozens of his articles 
published in technical journals and featured on the covers of such popular magazines as 
Scientific American. 

An academic overachiever with a sincere, self-effacing personality, Richards holds three 
advanced degrees in philosophy and theology, including a doctorate from Princeton Theological 
Seminary. He authored The Untamed God and has edited or contributed to such books as 
Unapologetic Apologetics, Signs of Intelligence, and Are We Spiritual Machines? His articles 
have appeared in publications ranging from Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith to the 
Washington Post to the Princeton Theological Review. As vice president of the Discovery 
Institute, Richards is considered a bright star in the burgeoning Intelligent Design movement. 

Each of us clutching a soft drink, we met in an airlines hospitality suite, with Richards and 
Gonzalez sitting across from me at a granite conference table under florescent lights in a simple 
room devoid of character. Anxious to proceed, I barely let them settle into their chairs before 
unleashing my first question. 


I turned toward Richards. "I was taught in school that our planet is unexceptional, that we 
revolve around a typical star in an average, mundane part of the universe, and that there's nothing 
particularly unusual or special about Earth," I began. "Isn't that the view of most scientists 

"Yes, that's the so-called Principle of Mediocrity or the Copernican Principle," Richards 
replied. "Open any introductory astronomy textbook and you'll see it stated over and over that we 
should assume there's nothing special about our situation, our location in the universe, or the 
particular features of the Earth, the solar system, or humans themselves." 
"But," I interjected, "isn't that appropriate in some sense?" 

"Yes, of course," he said. "We shouldn't assume that the Earth, our solar system, or our sun is 
unique in every possible way. We wouldn't be able to do science if every place in the universe 
had a different law of gravity or atoms had a different mass. That's fine." 

"Then where does the problem come in?" I asked. 

"The problem is that the Copernican Principle has taken a metaphysically bloated form, 
which essentially says our metaphysical status is as insignificant as our astronomical location. In 
other words, we're not here for a purpose, we're not special in any way, and we don't occupy a 
privileged place in the cosmos." 

I interrupted again. "Yet isn't it true that Copernicus's discovery-that the sun doesn't revolve 
around the Earth, but that the Earth revolves around the sun-quite naturally demoted 

Richards nodded wearily as if he had heard that comment a lot. "Let's go back to the 
beginning," he said. He stood, removed his jacket, and draped it over an unoccupied chair. 
Sitting back down, he continued. 

"The story is that the ancients- Aristotle, Ptolemy, medieval Christians-all thought we were at 
the center of the universe, sort of the throne of the cosmos, the most important place that 
everything revolved around. Then Copernicus and Kepler came along and said they can explain 
the movement of the planets better by assuming that the sun is at the center and that the planets- 
including Earth-revolve around it. So we've been displaced from the center and removed from 
our position of privilege. 

"This was the start of a long march of science that continued to demote us. Scientists later 
determined the sun isn't at the center of the universe; that we aren't at the center of the galaxy; 
and that the universe ultimately had no center, because scientists came to believe in the 
nineteenth century that it was infinite and eternal. You can see how this trend helped us to see 
ourselves as less and less significant, less and less at the center of things. 

"So the Copernican Revolution came to represent the conflict between science and religion. 
Religious superstition maintained the Earth and humankind are the center of the universe, both 
physically and metaphysically, but modern science has disproved that. 

"Humans have been stripped of their false sense of uniqueness and importance. While 
religious folk continued to insist there is something unique, special, intentional, and purposeful 
about our existence, scientists maintain that the material world is all there is, and that chance and 
impersonal natural law alone explain its existence." 

I was following along in full agreement. Richards's assessment was entirely consistent with 
what I had been taught in school. But then he added the clincher. 

"The problem," he said, a slight smile playing at the corner of his mouth, "is that this 
historical description is simply false." 


Richards's claim startled me. "False?" I declared. "What do you mean? In what way?" 

"Read Ptolemy, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler. Read Dante," he said. "In Dante's Divine 
Comedy, the surface of the Earth is an intermediate place. This was true in Aristotelian 
cosmology, which was Christianized in the Middle Ages. For Aristotle, the world was made of 
air, earth, fire, and water. Earth is heaviest, so it naturally falls to the bottom. 

"So the Earth was not so much at the center as it was at the bottom of the universe. It was sort 
of the cosmic sump. It was the place where things decay and die. Everything above the moon 
was made of a different type of matter-quintessence-and God dwelled in the heavenly sphere 
outside the celestial sphere of the stars. Man was in an intermediate place." 

Gonzalez spoke up. "Dante then inverted these levels as you go the other way, down to hell," 
he said. 

"Exactly," continued Richards. "You had nine levels going up toward God and getting 
closer to perfection, and then there were nine levels getting closer to absolute depravity, down 
to hell. Thus, in medieval cosmology, what we would call the center of the universe is Satan's 
throne. That's a very important point. If you imagine the center of the universe is Satan's throne 
and that the Earth itself is the cosmic sump, then clearly this is not the stereotype that we've 
been given that the center of the universe prior to Copernicus was the preeminent spot." 

Gonzalez added: "The Enlightenment later retold the story by saying the church, because of 
its arrogance, put humans in the center." 

Richards nodded. "That's the irony," he said. "It was the Enlightenment that made man the 
measure of all things. When you really think about it, Christian theology never actually put man 
literally in the center. We have a very important role to play in this cosmic drama, so much so 
that God even becomes incarnate. But it was never the case that everything was literally created 
solely for us. 

"Many centuries ago, Augustine said God didn't create the world "for man' or because of 
some sort of compulsion, but "because he wanted to. '26 In The Divine Comedy, the reader 
learns that the actual sense of us being in the center was merely a bias. We discover, in fact, that 
everything was arranged so that God is at the metaphysical center-that is, the place of supreme 

"Instead of denigrating Earth, actually Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler saw their new 
scheme as exalting it. For instance, Galileo waxes poetic about how the Earth, like the other 
planets, reflects the glory of the sun and is no longer just a cosmic sump. So in the trans- 
formation from medieval cosmology to the Renaissance view, this new perspective elevated man 
in some ways." 

Other historical researchers have come to the same conclusion. Said one: "The Copernican 
system, far from demoting man, destroyed Aristotle's vision of the earth as a kind of cosmic sink, 
and if it did anything, it elevated humanity. In making the earth a planet, a heavenly body, 
Copernicus infinitely ennobled its status." 

But something didn't add up to me. "Didn't the church persecute Copernicus, Galileo, and 
Giordano Bruno for their view that the Earth revolved around the sun?" I asked. 

"First of all," Richards said, "some claim Copernicus was persecuted, but history shows he 
wasn't; in fact, he died of natural causes the same year his ideas were published. As for Galileo, 
his case can't be reduced to a simple conflict between scientific truth and religious superstition. 
He insisted the church immediately endorse his views rather than allow them to gradually gain 
acceptance, he mocked the pope, and so forth. Yes, he was censured, but the church kept giving 
him his pension for the rest of his life." 

Indeed, historian William R. Shea said, "Galileo's condemnation was the result of the 
complex interplay of untoward political circumstances, political ambitions, and wounded prides." 
Historical researcher Philip J. Sampson noted that Galileo himself was convinced that the "major 
cause" of his troubles was that he had made "fun of his Holiness"-that is, Pope Urban VHI-in a 
1632 treatise. As for his punishment, Alfred North Whitehead put it this way: "Galileo suffered 
an honorable detention and a mild reproof, before dying peacefully in his bed." 

"Bruno's case was very sad," Richards continued. "He was executed in Rome in 1600. 
Certainly this is a stain on church history. But again, this was a complicated case. His 
Copernican views were incidental. He defended pantheism and was actually executed for his 
heretical views on the Trinity, the Incarnation, and other doctrines that had nothing to do with 

"Now, here's the point I want to make: it's very important if you're going to advance the 
Copernican Principle that you make it look like it's grounded in the historical march of science. 
But when you actually look at the data, it's just not true. Writers of astronomy textbooks just 
keep recycling the myth, sort of like the flat-Earth myth, which was the idea that Columbus was 
told the Earth was flat and he thought it was round. That's just wrong too." 

"Scholars at the time knew it was a sphere," added Gonzalez. "Even the ancient Greeks knew 
it was a sphere." 

"They'd known it for a thousand years or more," said Richards. 

I knew they were right about that. David Lindberg, former professor of the history of science 
and currently director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of 
Wisconsin, said in a recent interview: 

One obvious [myth] is that before Columbus, Europeans believed nearly unanimously in 
a flat Earth-a belief allegedly drawn from certain biblical statements and enforced by the 
medieval church. This myth seems to have had an eighteenth century origin, elaborated 
and popularized by Washington Irving, who flagrantly fabricated evidence for it in his 
four- volume history of Columbus.... The truth is that it's almost impossible to find an 
educated person after Aristotle who doubts that the Earth is a sphere. In the Middle 
Ages, you couldn't emerge from any kind of education, cathedral school or university, 
without being perfectly clear about the Earth's sphericity and even its approximate 
circumference. 32 

Now in addition to the flat-Earth myth being exploded, here were Richards and Gonzalez 
asserting that the Copernican Principle was based on faulty history as well. 

"So," continued Richards, "Guillermo and I embarked on a project to document whether 
there are important ways in which Earth is special or exceptional. To do this we had to show 
that there's not this long historical march of science showing how unimportant we are. We had 
to point out that the history is wrong and that what we're doing stands in the good tradition of 
science, which says, "Let's find out what the world is like to the best of our ability.'" 

"And," I said, "what did you find?" 

Richards and Gonzalez exchanged glances. "Well, scientists have generally followed the 
Copernican Principle by saying that our planet is ordinary and that therefore life undoubtedly 
abounds in the universe," Richards began. "We believe, however, the evidence is quite to the 
contrary." He gestured toward his colleague to continue. 

"We've found that our location in the universe, in our galaxy, in our solar system, as well as 
such things as the size and rotation of the Earth, the mass of the moon and sun and so forth-a 
whole range of factors-conspire together in an amazing way to make Earth a habitable planet," 
Gonzalez said. "And even beyond that, we've found that the very same conditions that allow for 
intelligent life on Earth also make it strangely well-suited for viewing and analyzing the 

"And we suspect this is not an accident," Richards added. "In fact, we raise the question of 
whether the universe has been literally designed for discovery." 


With that framework set, I moved ahead to discuss one of the main attitudes of scientists who 
embrace the Copernican Principle. "They believe if you can just find a place anywhere in the 

universe where w ater stays liquid for a long enough period of time, then life will develop, just as 
it did on Earth," I said. "I assume you don't agree with that." 

"No, I don't," Gonzalez said. "It's true that in order to have life you need water- which is the 
universal solvent-for reactions to take place, as well as carbon, which serves as the core atom of 
the information-carrying structural molecules of life. But you also need a lot more. Humans 
require twenty-six essential elements; a bacterium about sixteen. Intermediate life forms are 
between those two numbers. The problem is that not just any planetary body will be the source of 
all those chemical ingredients in the necessary forms and amounts." 

I interrupted to point out that science fiction writers have managed to speculate about extra- 
terrestrial life that's built in a radically different form-for instance, creatures based on silicon 
instead of carbon. 

Gonzalez was shaking his head before I had even finished my question. "That just won't 
work," he insisted. "Chemistry is one of the better understood areas of science. We know that 
you just can't get certain atoms to stick together in sufficient number and complexity to give you 
large molecules like carbon can. You can't get around it. And you just can't get other types of 
liquids to dissolve as many different kinds of chemicals as you can with water. There's 
something like half a dozen different properties of both water and carbon that are optimal for 
life. Nothing else comes close. Silicon falls far short of carbon. 

"Unfortunately, people see life as being easy to create. They think it's enough merely to have 
liquid water, because they see life as an epiphenomenon-just a piece of slime mold growing on 
an inert piece of granite. Actually, the Earth's geology and biology interact very tightly with each 
other. You can't think of life as being independent of the geophysical and meteorological 
processes of the planet. They interact in a very intimate way. So you need not only the right 
chemicals for life but also a planetary environment that's tuned to life." 

That sparked a related issue. Scientists have dreamed of terraforming a planet like Mars, 
essentially making over its environment to create a planet that's more conducive to settlement by 
humans. "Would that be very difficult?" I asked. 

"Absolutely. From the magnetic field to plate tectonics to the carbon dioxide cycle-ongoing 
life depends on a variety of very complicated interactions with the planet," he said. 

Richards jumped in. "People generally think that because they plant a seed and it grows that 
it's easy to create the right environment for life, but that's misleading," he said. "A good 
example is the hermetically sealed biosphere that some people constructed in Arizon a several 
years ago. They thought it would be relatively easy to create a self-contained environment 
conducive to life, but they had a devil of a time trying to make it work." 

"But life can also exist in some terribly harsh conditions," I pointed out. "For instance, there 
are life forms that live off of deep sea thermal vents. They don't seem to need oxygen or any 
particular support from the broader environment." 

"On the contrary," Gonzalez said, "the only things down there that don't need oxygen are 
some microorganisms that breathe methane. But larger organisms, which need to regulate their 
metabolism, are invariably oxygen-breathers. The oxygen comes from surface life and marine 
algae. The oxygen gets mixed in with the ocean and transported into deep waters. So those 
organisms are very directly tied to the surface and the overall ecosystem of the planet." 

Astounded by the Earth's fine-tuned physical, chemical, and biological interrelationships, 
some writers have gone so far as to liken our biosphere to a "superorganism" that is quite 
literally alive. In fact, James Lovelock's pantheistic Gaia Hypothesis even seeks to deify our 
planet. However, Gonzalez and Richards said it's unnecessary to go that far. 

"Despite these admittedly incredible interrelationships, there's nothing that requires anyone to 
see the Earth itself as being an organism, especially a god or goddess," Richards said. 

Then he turned to an image quite familiar to those who see the earmarks of design in Earth's 
complex and interconnected machinery. "That's sort of like deifying a watch because of its 
amazing properties," he said, "rather than looking beyond the watch to the one who made it." 


I granted the point that only certain kinds of planetary environments can play host to life. On 
the other hand, the universe is salted with trillions of stars, with countless terrestrial bodies 
undoubtedly revolving around them. Surely the mathematical odds favor many stars spawning 
Earth-like habitats-a point that argues against the idea that Earth is special and therefore 

But while my untrained eyes see each star as having equal potential to preside over a 
civilization-bearing solar system, I was soon to learn differently as I pursued questions 
concerning the conditions that are necessary for life to flourish. 

I turned toward Gonzalez. "As we look out at the billions of stars that constitute our Milky 
Way galaxy," I said, "can't we logically assume that planets teeming with life are strewn all over 
the place?" 

"No," he said unequivocally, "that's not a logical assumption based on the evidence. Along 
with Don Brownlee and Peter Ward of the University of Washington, I developed a concept 
called the Galactic Habitable Zone-that is, a zone in the galaxy where habitable planets might be 
possible. You see, you just can't form a habitable planet anywhere; there's a large number of 
threats to life as you go from place to place." 

My mind flashed back to when Drake and Sagan beamed their message to the large 
concentration of stars called globular cluster Ml 3. Their theory was that by transmitting their 
greeting toward a place packed with stars, there would be a higher chance of detection by an 
intelligent civilization. When I asked Gonzalez what he thought of that experiment, his reply was 
immediately dismissive. 

"The problem is that if the probability of life at any one star is zero, then the probability for all 
the stars remains zero," he said. 

"Zero?" I replied. "There are more than a quarter million stars in that globular cluster. Don't 
you think any of them harbor planets with life?" 

Gonzalez stood his ground. "A globular cluster is one of the worst places in the entire galaxy 
to expect any life," he replied. 


"Two reasons," he said. "First, globular clusters are among the most ancient things in our 
galaxy. Since they're extremely old, their stars have a very low abundance of heavy elements- 
carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, calcium, and so on. Instead, they're made up almost 
entirely of hydrogen and helium. In contrast, Earth is composed of iron, oxygen, magnesium, and 
silicone. Next comes sulfur. 

"You see, the Big Bang produced basically hydrogen and helium. That's what the earliest 
stars were made of. The heavier elements were synthesized-cooked, if you will-in the interior of 
stars. Eventually, when these stars exploded as supernovae, these elements got expelled into the 
interstellar medium. They coalesced into other stars, where more heavy elements were cooked. 
Then they were expelled again and again, with stars subsequently containing ever-greater 
amounts of these v metals,' or heavier elements. 

"Now, you need these elements to eventually build terrestrial planets like Earth. Because the 
very old stars in globular clusters formed so early that they're composed virtually exclusively of 
hydrogen and helium, they're not going to have planets accompanying them. Maybe there will be 
dust, or grains, or boulders, but that's about it. You're not going to have Earth-size planets. 

"The second problem is that globular clusters are so densely packed with stars that they 
wouldn't allow for stable, circular orbits to exist around them. The gravitational pull of the stars 
would create elliptical orbits that would take a hypothetical planet into extremes of cold and heat, 
which would create a life-prohibitive situation." 

His assessment made sense, but it caused me to wonder why Sagan and Drake, both 
knowledgeable astronomers, would waste their time trying to communicate with the stars of 
M13. Gonzalez shook his head when I asked him about it. 

"It's really surprising that they would think there would be any chance of a civilization 
receiving their message in a globular cluster," Gonzalez said. "They should have known better! 
Frankly, I think they were so deluded by their complete belief in the metaphysical Copernican 
Principle-that life was just going to be everywhere in the galaxy-that they overlooked the facts." 


Gonzalez's explanation made me wonder about the suitability of other places to harbor 
intelligent life. I knew that there are three basic types of galaxies in our universe. First, there are 
spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way. These are dominated by a central spherical bulge and a 
disk with "spiral arms" extending outward from the nucleus in a spiral pattern, resembling a 
celestial pinwheel. Second, there are elliptical galaxies, which are sort of egg-shaped. And, third, 
there are irregular galaxies, which appear disorganized and distorted. I asked Gonzalez to assess 
the life-bearing potential of each one. 

"Certainly, our type of galaxy optimizes habitability, because it provides safe zones," he said, 
his tone professorial. "And Earth happens to be located in a safe area, which is why life has been 
able to flourish here. 

"You see, galaxies have varying degrees of star formation, where interstellar gases coalesce to 
form stars, star clusters, and massive stars that blow up as supernovae. Places with active star 
formation are very dangerous, because that's where you have supernovae exploding at a fairly 
high rate. In our galaxy, those dangerous places are primarily in the spiral arms, where there are 
also hazardous giant molecular clouds. Fortunately, though, we happen to be situated safely 
between the Sagittarius and Perseus spiral arms. 

"Also, we're very far from the nucleus of the galaxy, which is also a dangerous place. We now 
know that there's a massive black hole at the center of our galaxy. In fact, the Hubble space 
telescope has found that nearly every large nearby galaxy has a giant black hole at its nucleus. 
And believe me-these are dangerous things! 

"Most black holes, at any given time, are inactive. But whenever anything gets near or falls 
into one, it gets torn up by the strong tidal forces. Lots of high energy is released-gamma rays, 
X-rays, particle radiation-and anything in the inner region of the galaxy would be subjected to 
high radiation levels. That's very dangerous for life forms. The center of the galaxy is also 
dangerous because there are more supernovae exploding in that region. 

"One more thing: the composition of a spiral galaxy changes as you go out from the center. 
The abundance of heavy elements is greater towards the center, because that's where star 
formation has been more vigorous over the history of the galaxy. So it has been able to cook the 
hydrogen and helium into heavy elements more quickly, whereas in the outer disk of the galaxy, 

star formation has been going on more slowly over the years and so the abundance of heavy 
elements isn't quite as high. Consequently, the outer regions of the disk are less likely to have 
Earth-type planets. 

"Now, put all of this together-the inner region of the galaxy is much more dangerous from 
radiation and other threats; the outer part of the galaxy isn't going to be able to form Earth-like 
planets because the heavy elements are not abundant enough; and I haven't even mentioned how 
the thin disk of our galaxy helps our sun stay in its desirable circula r orbit. A very eccentric orbit 
could cause it to cross spiral arms and visit the dangerous inner regions of the galaxy, but being 
circular it remain s in the safe zone. 

"All of this," he said, his voice sounding a bit triumphant, "work s together to create a narrow 
safe zone where life- sustaining planets are possible." 


Suddenly, the Earth was sounding pretty special, nestled as it is in a sliver of space that gives 
it safe haven from the otherwise menacing conditions of the Milky Way. But what about other 
types of galaxies? Might they also provide threat-free neighborhoods for lifepopulated planets? 

"What about elliptical galaxies?" I asked Gonzalez. "Do they have the potential to harbor 

"Elliptical galaxies look amorphous and are sort of egg-shaped, with stars having very 
random orbits, like bees swarming a beehive," he explained. "The problem for life in these 
galaxies is that the stars visit every region, which means they'll occasionally visit the dangerous, 
dense inner regions, where a black hole may be active. In any event, you're less likely to find 
Earth-like planets in elliptical galaxies because most of them lack the heavy elements needed to 
form them." 

This was an important point, because I knew that most galaxies fall into the elliptical 

"Most elliptical galaxies are less massive and luminous than our galaxy," Gonzalez 
continued. "Our galaxy is on the top one or two percent of the most massive and luminous. The 
bigger the galaxy, the more heavy elements it can have, because its stronger gravity can attract 
more hydrogen and helium and cycle them to build heavy elements. In the low-mass galaxies, 
which make up the vast majority, you can have whole galaxies without a single Earth-like planet. 
They just don't have enough of the heavy elements to construct Earths. Just like a globular 
cluster-you can have a whole globular cluster with hundreds of thousands of stars, and yet there 
won't be a single Earth. 

"If you look at the deepest pictures ever taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, they show 
literally thousands of galaxies when the universe was really young. People have commented, 
v Wow, look at all those galaxies! I wonder how many civilizations there are looking back at us?' 
In that picture, I'd say zero. Thousands and thousands and thousands of galaxies-but zero Earths, 
because the heavier elements haven't built up enough yet." 

Richards interrupted to say, "Of course, we're not looking at these galaxies as they exist now; 
we're looking back in time, say, nine billion years ago. It's possible that some of those galaxies 
are now at the state where the Milky Way is. We don't know for sure." 

"But," added Gonzalez, "this was back when it was much more dangerous, because it's the era 
of quasars, supernovae going off, and black holes. Even if you had a few regions in the galaxy 
where there were sufficient heavy elements to build Earths, they would have been so irradiated 
that life wouldn't be possible." 

With elliptical galaxies being unlikely sites for budding civilizations, I turned to the last 
category of galaxy, called irregulars. "What's their potential for life?" I asked. 

"Like the ellipticals, they also don't provide a safe harbor. In fact, they're worse. They're 
distorted and ripped apart, with supernovae going off throughout their volume. There are no safe 
places where there are fewer supernovae exploding, like we have between our spiral arms. 

"In fact, astronomers keep finding new threats to life. For example, we're learning more about 
gamma ray bursts, which are more powerful than a supernova. If one of these goes off near you, 
the lights go out. So the probability for there being civilizations elsewhere actually keeps 
declining as we learn about the new threats that we didn't know about before." 

"What's your opinion, then, about where Earth is located in the universe?" I asked. 
"In terms of habitability, I think we are in the best possible place," Gonzalez said. "That's 
because our location provides enough building blocks to yield an Earth, while providing a low 
level of threats to life. I really can't come up with an example of another place in the galaxy that 
is as friendly to life as our location. Sometimes people claim you can be in any part of any 
galaxy. Well, I've studied other regions- spiral arms, galactic centers, globular clusters, edge of 
disks-and no matter where it is, it's worse for life. I can't think of any better place than where we 

"That's ironic," I said. "It's the reverse of the Copernican Principle." 

Richards agreed. "The propaganda of the Copernican Principle has been that the long march 
of science has shown how common and ordinary our situation is. But the trend is in the opposite 
direction. The more you pile on the threats we're discovering in most places in the universe, and 
you contrast that with the many ways we're in a cocoon of safety, the more our situation appears 

"The most famous example is our own solar system," Gonzalez said. "At one time or 
another, scientists have speculated that there are civilizations on just about every body in our 
solar system-the moon, Mars, Jupiter. 

"Percival Lowell built his own observatory in Arizona to find these civilizations on Mars. 
He actually quoted Copernicus to justify his belief that we can't be the only civilization. Now 
they've backtracked to the point of saying, well, maybe there's some very simple slime mold 
beneath the surface of Mars or Europa. And even that is extremely questionable. That's how far 
back they've had to retreat." 

"Very often," observed Richards, "the Copernican Principle describes properties that don't 
matter. Who really cares whether we're in the physical center of the galaxy? It's irrelevant! 
What really matters is being in the place that's most conducive to life. And that's exactly where 
Earth finds itself." 


Within the last few years, astronomers finally have been able to discover planets orbiting 
other stars-a major confirmation of what was once merely widespread speculation. "Doesn't this 
confirm that there's nothing particularly out of the ordinary about our nine -planet system?" I 

"I'll concede," said Gonzalez, "that it demonstrates our solar system is not unique when it 
comes to having planets circling a star. But prior to the detection of the first planet orbiting 
another sun-like star in 1995, the expectation was that astronomers would find giant gas planets 
in large circular orbits, much like Jupiter. Jupiter orbits the sun in twelve years in a nearly 
circular orbit, far out from the terrestrial planets-Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. 

"However, we're finding that the planets circling other stars are quite different from Jupiter. 
They orbit over a full range of distances, from just a tiny fraction of an Astronomical Unit- which 
is the distance between the Earth and the sun-out to several Astronomical Units. Most of their 
orbits are highly elliptical; very few are circular. These strongly non-circular orbits utterly 
surprised astronomers. Because they strongly subscribed to the Copernican Principle, they had 
expected that other planetary systems would be just like ours. And that expectation was basically 

"What's wrong with an elliptical orbit for those kind of planets?" I asked. 
"It poses a problem for the habitability of any terrestrial planets in their system, because it 
would make them less likely to have stable circular orbits," Gonzalez replied. "For example, 
Earth's orbit is almost a perfect circle. A planet with the mass of the Earth would be sensitive to 
any of the gas giant planets if they had more eccentric orbits. The Earthlike planet's own orbit 
would be affected, making it less circular and therefore subjecting the planet to dangerous 
surface temperature variations." 

"So," I said, "if our own Jupiter had a more elliptical orbit, the Earth wouldn't be able to 
maintain as circular an orbit and have the steady temperature and predictable climate that come 
with that." 

"That's right," he said. "In fact, even small variations in our nearly circular orbit can cause 
ice ages, because of temperature shifts on the surface of the planet. We have to maintain a 
circular orbit as much as possible to maintain a relatively steady temperature. That's only 
possible because Jupiter's orbit isn't very elliptical and therefore doesn't threaten to distort our 
round orbit." 


Now that we were discussing our solar system, I wanted to delve into other "local" factors 
that make our planet habitable. "What is it about our solar system that contributes to life on 
Earth?" I asked. 

"A surprising amount," said Gonzalez. "More and more, astronomers are learning how the 
other planets tie into the habitability of Earth. For example, George Wetherill of the Carnegie 
Institution showed in 1994 that Jupiter- which is huge, more than three hundred times the mass 
of the Earth-acts as a shield to protect us from too many comet impacts. It actually deflects 
comets and keeps many of them from coming into the inner solar system, where they could 
collide with Earth with life-extinguishing consequences. 

"This was illustrated very nicely by the impact of Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 into Jupiter in 
July, 1994. This comet was attracted by Jupiter's tremendous gravitational pull and broke into 
fragments, with all of there hitting Jupiter. Even Saturn and Uranus participate in that kind of 

"In addition, the other planets in our inner solar system protect us from getting bombarded 
by asteroids from the asteroid belt. The asteroids are mostly between the orbits of Mars and 
Jupiter. Our first line of defense is Mars, being at the edge of the asteroid belt. It takes a lot of 
hits for us. Venus does too. If you want to get an idea of the stuff that probably would have hit 
the Earth, look at the surface of the moon. The moon, unfortunately, has too little surface area 
to provide much protection, but it's a nice record." 

"What about the Earth's position in the solar system?" I asked. 
"How much does that contribute to its habitability?" 

"There's a concept invented by astrobiologists called the Circumstellar Habitable Zone. 

That's the region around a star where you can have liquid water on the surface of a terrestrial 
planet. This is determined by the amount of light you get from the host star. 

"You can't be too close, otherwise too much water evaporates into the atmosphere and it 
causes a runaway greenhouse effect, and you boil off the oceans. We think that might be what 
happened to Venus. But if you get too far out, it gets too cold. Water and carbon dioxide freeze 
and you eventually develop runaway glaciation. 

"The main point is that as you go further out from the sun, you have to increase the carbon 
dioxide content of the planet's atmosphere. This is necessary in order to trap the sun's radiation 
and keep water liquid. The problem is that there wouldn't be enough oxygen to have mammal- 
like organisms. It's only in the very inner edge of the Circumstellar Habitable Zone where you 
can have low enough carbon dioxide and high enough oxygen to sustain complex animal life. 
And that's where we are." 

"So if the Earth's distance from the sun were moved by, say, five percent either way, what 
would happen?" I asked. 

"Disaster," came his quick reply. "Animal life would be impossible. The zone for animal 
life in the solar system is much narrower than most people think." 

"And that's why you need a circular orbit like the one Earth has," Richards added. "You 
don't just want to be in the Circumstellar Habitable Zone part of the time; you want to be in it 
continuously. It doesn't do you any good to have melted water for four months and then have 
the whole planet freeze up again." 


Obviously, the key to continued life on Earth is the sun, whose nuclear fusion, taking place 
at twenty-seven million degrees Fahrenheit at its core, provides us with consistent warmth and 
energy ninetythree million miles away. Ever since witnessing a solar eclipse as a c hild, 
carefully protecting my eyes by observing the phenomenon through a projected image inside a 
cardboard box, I have been fascinated by this fiery behemoth, whose mass is an 
incomprehensible three hundred thousand times greater than the Earth's. 

However, I had always been told that there was nothing out of the ordinary about the sun. As 
one text says flatly: "The sun is a common fixed star. " And if the sun is truly so average, so 
typical, so undistinguished, then the logical implication would be that lots of life-bearing Earths 
must be orbiting around lots of similar suns throughout the universe. 

"Today, astronomers know a lot more about stars than they did when I was growing up," I 
said to Gonzalez. "Is the consensus still that the sun is just a common star?" 

"No, not at all," Gonzalez replied. "It's just recently that some new astronomy textbooks are 
finally starting to say that, well, the sun really is unusual after all. For instance, it's among the 
ten percent most massive stars in the galaxy. In fact, if you pick a star at random, you're likely to 
pick one that's far less massive than the sun, usually red dwarfs, which make up about eighty 
percent of stars. Another eight or nine percent are called G dwarfs, most of which also are less 
massive than the sun. The sun is a yellow dwarf; technically, it has a G2 Spectral Type." 

His comment about the ubiquity of red dwarfs piqued my curiosity. "Since red dwarfs 
dominate the universe, let's talk about them for a moment. Are they conducive to having life- 
bearing planets orbiting them?" I asked. 
"I don't think they are," Gonzalez said. 
"Why not?" 

"Several reasons. First, red dwarfs emit most of their radiation in the red part of the 
spectrum, which makes photosynthesis less efficient. To work well, photosynthesis requires blue 
and red light. But a much greater problem is that as you decrease the mass of a star, you also 
decrease its luminosity. A planet would have to orbit this kind of star much closer in order to 
have sufficient heat to maintain liquid water on its surface. 

"The problem is the tidal force between the star and the planet gets stronger as you move 
in, so the planet will spin down and eventually end up in what's called a tidally locked state. 
This means it always presents the same face towards the star. That's very bad, because it causes 
large temperature differences between the lit side and the unlit side. The lit side would be 
terribly dry and hot, while the unlit side would be prohibitively icy and cold. And there's 
another problem- red dwarfs have flares." 
"But," I said, "the sun has flares too." 

"That's right. And the intensity of flares on red dwarfs is about the same as on our sun. The 
difference is that red dwarfs as a whole emit much less total light, so they're much less 
luminous. That means in comparison to the luminosity of the star, the output of the flare is 

"Whoa!" I said, putting up my hand in protest. "You've lost me." 

Gonzalez regrouped. "Okay, let me get to the bottom line: for this kind of star, flares cause 
the star's total luminosity to vary. In fact, astronomers call them v flare stars,' and they watch as 
they get much brighter for a while and then dimmer again. We don't pay too much attention to 
the solar flares of our sun, because the sun is so luminous that the flares are like a little blip. 
You barely notice them." 

"And remember we're ninety-three million miles from the sun," Richards said. "With a red 
dwarf, your planet would have to be much closer to the star." 

"Right," said Gonzalez. "The luminosity increase would cause temperature spikes on the 
surface of an orbiting planet. But just as bad would be the increased particle radiation that would 
result from the flares. On Earth, we get a very mild effect called the aurora borealis. This is 
where there's a flare on the sun, the particles eventually reach the Earth, they're funneled down 
the magnetic field to the north and south poles, and we see the aurora borealis as these beautiful 
lights in the northern hemisphere. 

"However, particle radiation has the effect of quickly stripping away the atmosphere, 
increasing the surface radiation levels, but most importantly, destroying the ozone layer, which 
we need to protect from radiation. All of this would be deadly for any life on a planet near a red 

"And then red dwarfs have one more problem: they don't produce much ultraviolet light, 
which you need early on to build up oxygen in the atmosphere. Scientists believe that the oxygen 
in the Earth's atmosphere was built up at first by the ultraviolet radiation that broke u p water into 
oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen was allowed to build „p in the atmosphere, while the 
hydrogen escaped into space, because it's lighter. But you get very little blue light from a red 
dwarf, so this phenomenon wouldn't occur as rapidly and you wouldn't get the build up of the 
oxygen you need to sustain life. 

"Fortunately, our sun is not only the right mass, but it also emits the right colors-a balance of 
red and blue. As a matter of fact, if we were orbiting a more massive star, called an F dwarf, 
there would be much more blue radiation that would build up the oxygen and ozone layer even 
faster. But any momentary interruption of the ozone layer would subject the planet to an 
immediate flood of highly intense ultraviolet radiation, which would be disastrous to life. 

"Also, the more massive stars don't live as long-that's the major problem. Stars that are even 
just a little more massive than the sun live only a few billion years. Our sun is expected to last a 
total of about ten billion years on its main sequence, burning hydrogen steadily, whereas stars 
just a few tens of percent more massive have considerably less lifetime on the main sequence. 
And while on the main sequence, they change luminosity much faster. Everything on their 
lifecycle happens faster." 

"Anything else that makes our sun unusual?" I asked. 

"Yes, the sun is metal-rich; in other words, it has a higher abundance of heavy elements 
compared to other stars of its age in this region of the galaxy. As it turns out, the sun's 
metallicity may be near the golden mean for building Earth-size habitable terrestrial planets. 

"And the sun is highly stable, more so than most comparable stars. Its light output only 
varies by one-tenth of one percent over a full sunspot cycle, which is about eleven years. This 
prevents wild climate swings on Earth. 

"Another way it's anomalous is that the sun's orbit is more nearly circular in the galaxy than 
most other stars of its age. That helps by keeping us away from the galaxy's dangerous spiral 
arms. If the sun's orbit were more eccentric, we could be exposed to the kind of galactic dangers 
I mentioned earlier, such as explosions of supernovae." 

I realized after Gonzalez's comments that I would never look at the bejeweled night sky as I had 
in the past. I used to see stars as being fungible, which is a legal term meaning one is just as good 
as the other. But now I understood why the vast majority of stars would be automatically ruled 
out as being capable of supporting life -bearing planets. 

It would take a star with the highly unusual properties of our sun_ the right mass, the right 
light, the right composition, the right distance, the right orbit, the right galaxy, the right 
location-to nurture living organisms on a circling planet. That makes our sun, and our planet, 
rare indeed. 

As much as I have been fascinated by the sun, I've also frequently stared in wonder at the 
other dominant celestial body in our sky-the moon. Curious to find out whether this barren, 
rocky satellite contributes anything to its host planet-other than inspiration for poets and other 
romantics-I proceeded to turn our discussion toward lunar issues. 


Centuries ago, the dark patches on the moon-low-lying areas that had been flooded with 
basaltic lava-were thought to be oceans that provided life-giving water to its unseen population. 
They were called maria, Latin for "seas."'" The name has stuck; to this day, for example, we still 
refer to Mare Tranquilitatis, or the Sea of Tranquility. 

Johannes Kepler, the seventeenth-century astronomer who fanned the flames of the 
Copernican Revolution, gazed at the moon and believed he discerned caves that were populated 
by moon people. He even wrote a book in which he fantasized about what their lives might be 
like:' A century later, William Herschel, who gained fame by discovering Uranus, thought he 
made out cities, highways, and pyramids on the lunar landscape." 

As scientific knowledge grew, dreams of finding lunar civilizations dissipated. Everyone 
came to agree that the moon cannot support life. Yet surprising discoveries in recent years have 
shown the opposite to be true: the moon really does support life-ours! Scientific evidence 
confirms how this parched, airless satellite actually contributes in unexpected ways to creating a 
lush and stable environment a quarter of a million miles away on Earth. 

When I asked Gonzalez about how the moon helps support life on our planet, the first thing 

he brought up was a discovery that only dates back to 1993. 

"There was a remarkable finding that the moon actually stabilizes the tilt of the Earth's axis," 
he said. "The tilt is responsible for our seasons. During the summer, in the northern hemisphere 
the north pole axis is pointed more toward the sun. Six months later, when the Earth is on the 
other side of the sun, then the south pole is more pointed toward the sun. With the Earth's tilt at 
23.5 degrees, this gives us very mild seasons. So in a very real way, the stability of our climate 
is attributable to the moon." 
"What would happen," I asked, "if the moon were not there?" 

"Then our tilt could swing wildly over a large range, resulting in major temperature swings. 
If our tilt were more like ninety degrees, the north pole would be exposed to the sun for six 
months while the south pole would be in darkness, then vice-versa. Instead, it varies by only 
about one and a half degrees-just a tiny variation, because the gravity from the moon's orbit 
keeps it stabilized. 

"The moon's large size compared to its host planet is unique in the inner solar system," he 
continued. "Mercury and Venus have no moons. Mars has two tiny moons-probably captured 
asteroids-and they don't do anything to stabilize the axis of Mars. Its axis is pretty close to 
Earth's right now, but that's only by coincidence. It actually varies over a huge range. In fact, all 
three of these planets have chaotic variations in their tilt. 

"The moon also helps in another crucial way, which is to increase our tides. The moon 
contributes sixty percent to the tides; the sun accounts for the other forty percent. Tides serve an 
important role by flushing out nutrients from the continents to the oceans, which keeps them 
more nutrient-rich than they otherwise would be. Scientists discovered just a few years ago that 
the lunar tides also help to keep large-scale ocean circulation going. That's important because the 
oceans carry a lot of heat, which is necessary to keep the temperature of the higher latitudes 
relatively mild." 

I asked, "What if the moon were larger than it is?" 

"If it were more massive and in the same place, the tides would be much too strong, which 
would create serious difficulties. You see, the moon is slowing down the Earth's rotation. The 
tides pull on the Earth and slow it down a little bit, while at the same time the moon moves out in 
its orbit. We can actually measure this. Astronauts left mirrors on the moon and astronomers 
have been bouncing lasers off them since the early 1970s. They've documented that the moon is 
moving out in its orbit at 3.82 centimeters a year. 

"If the moon were more massive, it would slow down the Earth much more. That would be a 
problem because if the days became too long, then you could have large temperature differences 
between day and night." 

James Kasting, a professor of geosciences and meteorology at Pennsylvania State 
University, has confirmed that "Earth's climatic stability is dependent to a large extent on the 
existence of the moon." Without the moon, he said, the Earth's tilt could "vary chaotically from 
zero to eighty-five degrees on a time scale of tens of millions of years," with devastating results. 

To me, it was amazing enough that the moon "just happens" to be the right size and in the 
right place to help create a habitable environment for Earth. Again, it was piling on more and 
more "coincidences" that were making it harder to believe mere chance could be responsible for 
our life- sustaining biosphere. 

But then Kasting made one more intriguing observation that adds yet another mind-blowing 
improbability to already extraordinary circumstances. "The moon is now generally believed to 
have formed as a consequence of a glancing collision with a Mars- sized body during the later 

stages of the Earth's formation," he said. "If such moon-forming collisions are rare ... habitable 
planets might be equally rare." 


Having explored the moon's contribution to the Earth's life-support system, I decided it was 
time to focus on our planet itself. I had studied enough geology to know that the Earth is more 
than just an undifferentiated spinning rock, but that its interior is a dynamic and complex system 
eight thousand miles in diameter, with a solid iron core surrounded by iron that has been 
rendered liquid by the heat. At its center, where the pressure is more than three million times 
greater than at the planet's surface, temperatures soar to nine thousand degrees Fahrenheit. 

"What," I said to Gonzalez, "are some of the phenomena on Earth that contribute to its ability 
to sustain life?" 

"First let's talk about the Earth's mass," Gonzalez said. "A terrestrial planet must have a 
minimum mass to retain an atmosphere. You need an atmosphere for the free exchange of the 
chemicals of life and to protect inhabitants from cosmic radiation. And you need an oxygen-rich 
atmosphere to support big-brained creatures like humans. Earth's atmosphere is twenty percent 
oxygen-just right, it turns out. 

"And the planet has to be a minimum size to keep the heat from its interior from being lost too 
quickly. It's the heat from its radioactive decaying interior that drives the critically important 
mantle convection inside the Earth. If Earth were smaller, like Mars, it would cool down too 
quickly; in fact, Mars cooled down and basically is dead." 

"What if the Earth were a little more massive than it is?" I asked. 

"The bigger the planet, the higher the surface gravity, and the less surface relief between the 
ocean basins and the mountains," he said. "The rocks at the bases of mountains can only 
withstand so much weight before they fracture. The higher the surface gravity of a planet, the 
greater the pull of the gravity on the mountains, and the tendency would be toward creating a 
smooth sphere. 

"Think what would happen if our planet were a smooth sphere. The Earth has a lot of water in 
its crust. The only reason we're not a water world right now is because we have continents and 
mountains to rise above it. If you were to smooth out all the land, water would be at a depth of 
two kilometers. You would have a water world-and a water world is a dead world." 

That perplexed me. "If you need water for life," I said, "why doesn't more water mean more 

Gonzalez replied, "We have life on Earth because we have the energy-rich sunlit surface of 
the oceans, which is teeming with mineral nutrients. Tides and weathering wash the nutrients 
from the continents into the oceans, where they feed organisms. In a water world, many of the 
life-essential minerals would sink to the bottom. That's the basic problem. Besides, the salt 
concentration in a water world would be prohibitively high. Life can only tolerate a certain level 
of saltiness." 

"Our oceans and seas are salty," I said. "How does Earth manage to regulate this?" 

"We have large, marshy areas along some coasts. Because these are shallow, water comes in 
from the ocean and evaporates quickly, leaving salt behind. So you get huge salt deposits 
accumulating on the continents, and the salt content of the ocean doesn't get out of control. But 
in a water world, eventually the excess salt would saturate the water and settle to the bottom. 
This would create a super-saturated salt solution that would be inhospitable to life." 

Even so, I said, some scientists have theorized that life might exist inside Jupiter's frozen 

moon Europa, where a theoretical ocean might be located. "It doesn't sound like you think life 
would be possible in an environment like that," I said. 

"No, I don't think so," he replied. "I don't believe it would be habitable. There would be no 
way to regulate the salt, so I certainly don't imagine there are any dolphins swimming around in 

Mountains and continents, then, are crucial for a life-flourishin g planet. But where did they 
come from? I soon learned that they are partly the product of elaborate choreography involving 
radioactive elements and plate tectonics -absolutely essential ingredients for any planet to 
sustain a thriving biosphere. 


Scientists over the last several decades have established the surprising centrality of plate 
tectonics, and the related continental drift, to the sustaining of life on Earth. Continental drift 
refers to the movement of a dozen or more massive plates in the Earth's lithosphere, which is the 
outer, rigid shell of the planet. One crucial byproduct of plate tectonics is the development of 
mountain ranges, which are generally created over long periods of time as the plates collide and 

Scientists are finding that the importance of plate tectonics is difficult to overstate. "It may 
be," said Ward and Brownlee in Rare Earth, "that plate tectonics is the central requirement for 
life on a planet." 38 Interestingly, they added that "of all the planets and moons in our solar 
system, plate tectonics is found only on Earth." 39 In fact, any heavenly body would need oceans 
of water as a prerequisite to having plate tectonics, in order to lubricate and facilitate the 
movement of the plates. 

When I asked Gonzalez why plate tectonics is so crucial, he launched into describing an 
improbable series of highly coordinated natural processes that left me amazed once more at how 
finely tuned our planet really is. 

"Not only does plate tectonics help with the development of continents and mountains, which 
prevent a water world, but it also drives the Earth's carbon dioxide-rock cycle," he said. "This is 
critical in regulating the environment through the balancing of greenhouse gases and keeping the 
temperature of the planet at a livable level. 

"You see, greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, absorb infrared e nergy and help warm the 
planet. So they're absolutely crucial. The problem is that their concentration in the atmosphere 
needs to be regulated as the sun slowly brightens. Otherwise, the Earth would not be able to 
stabilize its surface temperature, which would be disastrous. 

"Plate tectonics cycles fragments of the Earth's crust-including limestone, which is made up 
of calcium, carbon dioxide, and oxygen a toms-down into the mantle. There, the planet's internal 
heat releases the carbon dioxide, which is then continually vented to the atmosphere through 
volcanoes. It's quite an elaborate process, but the end result is a kind of thermostat that keeps the 
greenhouse gases in balance and our surface temperature under control. 

"What's driving plate tectonics is the internal heat generated by radioactive isotopes- 
Potassium-40, Uranium-235, Uranium-238, Thorium-232. These elements deep inside the Earth 
were originally produced in supernovae, and their production in the galaxy is declining with time 
because the supernova rate is declining with time. That will limit the production of Earth-like 
planets in the future, because they won't generate as much internal heat as the Earth does. 

"This radioactive decay also helps drive the convection of the liquid iron surrounding the 
Earth's core, which results in an amazing phenomenon: the creation of a dynamo that actually 

generates the planet's magnetic field. The magnetic field is crucial to life on Earth, because it 
shields us from low-energy cosmic rays. If we didn't have a magnetic shield, there would be 
more dangerous radiation reaching the atmosphere. Also, solar wind particles would directly 
interact with the upper atmosphere, stripping it away, especially the molecules of hydrogen and 
oxygen from water. That would be bad news because water would be lost more quickly. 

"Now, remember how I said that plate tectonics helps regulate global temperatures by 
balancing greenhouse gases? Well, there's also another natural thermostat, called the Earth's 
albedo. Albedo refers to the proportion of sunlight a planet reflects. The Earth has an especially 
rich variety of albedo sources-oceans, polar ice caps, continental interiors, including deserts- 
which is good for regulating the climate. Whatever light isn't reflected by Earth is absorbed, 
which means the surface gets heated. 

"This is self-regulated through one of the Earth's natural feedback mechanisms. To give you 
an example, some marine algae produce dimethyl sulfide. This helps to build cloud condensation 
nuclei, or CCN, which are small particles in the atmosphere around which water can condense to 
form cloud droplets. 

"If the ocean gets too warm, then this algae reproduce more quickly and release more 
dimethyl sulfide, which leads to a greater concentration of CCN and a higher albedo for the 
marine stratus clouds. Higher cloud albedo, in turn, cools the ocean below, which then reduces 
the rate at which the algae reproduce. So this provides a natural thermostat. 40 

"On the other hand, Mars lacks oceans, so it doesn't have this albedo component. It only has 
deserts, small polar caps, and very thin, occasional clouds. So Mars is far less capable of 
adjusting its albedo as its more eccentric orbit takes it closer and then further from the sun. That's 
one of the reasons why it experiences larger temperature swings than Earth." 

Giant plates of shifting rock that precariously balance greenhouse gases; decaying 
radioactive isotopes acting as a life- sustaining underground furnace; an internal dynamo that 
generates a magnetic field which deflects cosmic dangers; precision feedback loops that unite 
biology and meteorology-I had to pause and marvel at the complex and interconnected processes 
that orchestrate our planet's environment. 

And that was just the beginning. I knew Gonzalez could go on and on about scores of other 
fine-tuned phenomena. Among them are the elaborate physical processes that resulted in 
valuable ores being deposited near the planet's surface, enabling them to be efficiently mined for 
our technological development. Geologist George Brimhall of the University of California at 
Berkeley has observed: 

The creation of ores and their placement close to the Earth's surface are the result of 
much more than simple geologic chance. Only an exact series of physical and chemical 
events, occurring in the right environment and sequence and followed by certain climatic 
conditions, can give rise to a high concentration of these compounds so crucial to the 
development of civilization and technology. 41 

When I took this together with all of the various "serendipitous" circumstances involving 
our privileged location in the universe, I was left without a vocabulary to describe my sense of 
wonder. The suggestion that all of this was based on fortuitous chance had become absurd to 
me. The tell-tale signs of design are evident from the far reaches of the Milky Way down to the 
inner core of our planet. 

And yet there was more-a whole new dimension of evidence that suggests this astounding 
world was created, in part, so we could have the adventure of exploring it. 


The story begins with an unabashed love for solar and lunar eclipses that helped drive a young 
Guillermo Gonzalez into a life-long study of stellar mysteries. 

Mesmerized by the partial eclipses he had witnessed as an amateur astronomer, Gonzalez 
longed to see the zenith of them all: a total eclipse of the sun, where the moon just barely covers 
the sun's photosphere. He finally got his chance in 1995. Aware that an eclipse was going to 
occur on October 24 of that year, he scheduled his research so he could witness the event in 
northern India, one of the few places where it was going to be fully visible. 

"One thing about eclipses," he told me, "is that a seasoned astronomer could be standing next 
to someone from a remote village, and they would both have tears in their eyes. They're both in 
awe. At my eclipse camp, as soon as the total phase of the eclipse ended, when you could see the 
sun's beautiful corona and it was relatively dark, people spontaneously applauded as if rewarding 
a show. It was just so beautiful!" 

Gonzalez photographed the eclipse and made scientific measurements. But he wasn't done. 
His mind wouldn't let go of an insight: eclipses are better viewed on Earth than they would be 
from any other planet in our solar system. 

"There's a striking convergence of rare properties that allow people on Earth to witness 
perfect solar eclipses," he said. "There's no law of physics that would necessitate this. In fact, of 
the nine planets with their more than sixty-three moons in our solar system, the Earth's surface is 
the best place where observers can witness a total solar eclipse, and that's only possible for the 
'near-term' future. 42 

"What's really amazing is that total eclipses are possible because the sun is four hundred times 
larger than the moon, but it's also four hundred times further away. It's that incredible 
coincidence that creates a perfect match. Because of this configuration, and because the Earth is 
the innermost planet with a moon, observers on Earth can discern finer details in the sun's 
chromosphere and corona than from any other planet, which makes these eclipses scientifically 

"What intrigued me," he said, "was that the very time and place where perfect solar eclipses 
appear in our universe also corresponds to the one time and place where there are observers to 
see them." 

That "coincidence" was so fascinating to me that I asked him to repeat his last statement 
before we continued. After he did, he added: "What's more, perfect solar eclipses have resulted 
in important scientific discoveries that would have been difficult if not impossible elsewhere, 
where eclipses don't happen." 
"What discoveries?" I asked. 

"I'll give you just three examples," he said. "First, perfect solar eclipses helped us learn 
about the nature of stars. Using spectroscopes, astronomers learned how the sun's color 
spectrum is produced, and that data helped them later interpret the spectra of distant stars. 

"Second, a perfect solar eclipse in 1919 helped two teams of astronomers confirm the fact 
that gravity bends light, which was a prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity. That 
test was only possible during a total solar eclipse, and it led to general acceptance of Einstein's 

"Third, perfect eclipses provided a historical record that has enabled astronomers to 
calculate the change in the Earth's rotation over the past several thousand years. This enabled us 
to put ancient calendars on our modem calendar system, which was very significant." 

Richards, who had been listening intently, spoke up. "What's mysterious," he said, "is that the 

same conditions that give us a habitable planet also make our location so wonderful for scientific 
measurement and discovery. So we say there's a correlation between habitability and 
measurability . 

"Not only does the specific configuration of the Earth, sun, and moon allow for perfect 
eclipses, but that same configuration is also vital to sustaining life on Earth. We've already 
discussed how the size and location of the moon stabilizes our tilt and increases our tides, and 
how the size of the sun and our distance from it also make life possible here. 

"Our main point," he concluded, "is that there's no obvious reason to assume that the very 
same rare properties that allow for our existence would also provide the best overall setting to 
make discoveries about the world around us. In fact, we believe that the conditions for making 
scientific discoveries on Earth are so fine-tuned that you would n eed a great amount of faith to 
attribute them to mere chance." 


Prompted by the study of perfect solar eclipses, Gonzalez and Richards began to investigate 
the incredible convergence of habitability and measurability in scores of other settings. They 
came up with a wide range of examples that merely served to amplify their amazement. 

"For example," said Gonzalez, "not only do we inhabit a location in the Milky Way that's 
fortuitously optimal for life, but our location also happens to provide us with the best overall 
platform for making a diverse range of discoveries for astronomers and cosmologists. Our 
location away from the galaxy's center and in the flat plane of the disk provides us with a 
particularly privileged vantage point for observing both nearby and distant stars. 

"We're also in an excellent position to detect the cosmic background radiation, which is 
critically important because it helped us realize our universe had a beginning in the Big Bang. 
The background radiation contains invaluable information about the properties of the universe 
when it was only about three hundred thousand years old. There's no other way of getting that 
data. And if we were elsewhere in the galaxy, our ability to detect it would have been greatly 

Richards offered a few other illustrations. "The moon stabilizes the Earth's tilt, which gives 
us a livable climate-and it also consistently preserves the deep snow deposits in the polar regions. 
These deposits are a tremendously valuable data recorder for scientists," he said. 

"By taking core samples from the ice, researchers can gather data going back hundreds of 
thousands of years. Ice cores can tell us about the history of snowfall, temperatures, winds near 
the polar regions, and the amount of volcanic dust, methane, and carbon dioxide in the 
atmosphere. They record the sunspot cycle through variations in the concentration of beryllium- 
10. They even record the temporary weakening of the Earth's magnetic field forty thousand 
years ago. In 1979, scientists identified a tentative link between nitrate spikes in an Antarctic ice 
core with nearby supernovae. By taking deeper cores, it might be possible to catalog all nearby 
supernovae of the last few hundred thousand years- something that would be otherwise 

Another example of the strange correlation between habitability and measurability, Richards 
said, is the clarity of our atmospher e . "The metabolisms of higher organisms require from ten to 
twenty percent oxygen in the atmosphere-which is also the amount needed to facilitate fire, 
allowing for the development of technology," Richards said. 43 "But it just so happens that the 
very composition of our atmosphere also gives it transparency, which it wouldn't have if it were 
rich in carbon-containing atoms, like methane. And a transparent atmosphere allows the science 

of astronomy and cosmology to flourish." 

"Wait a second," I said. "Doesn't the water vapor in our atmosphere cause cloudiness that can 
hinder astronomy? That's why putting a telescope in space has been such a breakthrough." 

"Actually, astronomers prefer a partly cloudy atmosphere to one that's completely cloudy or 
always windy and dusty," Gonzalez said. "Besides, we're not saying that every condition of 
measurability is uniquely and individually optimized on Earth. Our argument depends on what's 
called an optimal negotiation of competing conditions. 

"As Henry Petroski said in his book Invention by Design, V A11 design involves conflicting 
objectives and hence compromise, and the best designs will always be those that come up with 
the best compromise. ,v " To come up with discoveries in a wide range of scientific disciplines, our 
environment must be a good compromise of competing factors-and we find that it is." 

Another interesting connection between habitability and measurability involves plate 
tectonics. As Gonzalez and Richards explained earlier, plate tectonics is essential to having a 
livable planet. One byproduct of the movement of these crustal plates is earthquakes, which, in 
turn, have provided scientists with research data that would otherwise be difficult to obtain. 

"Thousands of seismographs all over the planet have measured earthquakes through the 
years," Richards said. "In the past few decades, scientists have been able to use that data to 
produce a threedimensional map of the structure of the Earth's interior." 

Over and over again, he said, the extraordinary conditions that create a hospitable 
environment on Earth also happen to make our planet strangely well-suited for viewing, 
analyzing, and understanding the universe. 

"Is that merely some sort of cosmic quirk?" Richards asked. "Are we just lucky? I think 
wisdom entails the ability to discern the difference between mere coincidence and a meaningful 
pattern. We have more than a coincidence here. Much more." 


When trying to explain the existence of life, said Gonzalez and Richards, we face a trilemma. 
One possibility is that some natural necessity, like the laws of physics, inexorably leads to life. 
Advocates of SETI-the Search for Extra- Terrestrial Intelligence-like that possibility. However, 
more and more scientific discoveries are showing how incredibly improbable it is to marshal the 
right conditions for life. Many scientists are concluding that intelligent life is, at minimum, far 
rarer than was once thought. In fact, it may very well be unique to Earth. 

The second possible explanation is chance: life is a fluke. Create enough planets circling 
enough stars and the odds say at least one of them will have life. Brownlee and Ward, who wrote 
Rare Earth, seem to gravitate toward this explanation. 

But there's also a third possibility: life was created. After studying all of the extraordinarily 
rare circumstances that have contributed to life on Earth, and then overlaying the amazing way in 
which these conditions also open the door to scientific discoveries, Gonzalez and Richards have 
landed in this camp. 

"To find that we have a universe where the very places where we find observers are also the 
very best overall places for observing-^?'.? surprising," Richards said. "I see design not just in 
the rarity of life in the universe, but also in this very pattern of habitability and measurability." 
I turned toward Gonzalez. "What's your conclusion?" I asked. 

"My conclusion, frankly, is that the universe was designed for observers living in places 
where they can make scientific discoveries," he replied. "There may be other purposes to the 
universe, but at least we know that scientific discovery was one of them." 

Ever the theologian, Richards jumped back in. "In the Christian tradition, this is quite at 
home," he said. "Christians have always believed that God testifies to his existence through the 
book of nature and the book of Scripture. In the nineteenth century, science effectively closed the 
book of nature. But now, new scientific discoveries are reopening it." 

"But if the universe was designed with us in mind, why is it so incredibly vast?" I asked. 
"There's a lot of empty space out there. Isn't that wasteful and unnecessary?" 

"Because the universe was designed for discovery, we need something to discover," 
Richards replied. "The universe is vast and we're small, but we have access to it. That's what is 
amazing. We can see background radiation that has come from more than ten billion light years 

"Plus," added Gonzalez, "we needed supernovae to build up the heavy elements so life- 
bearing planets could develop. And one particular type of supernovae is incredibly useful as a 
"standard candle.' Type la supernovae have 'calibratable liminosities' so we can use them to 
determine distances and to probe the expansion history of the universe. So, again, we see the 
connection between habitability and measurability." 

Richards made one other interesting observation. "Darwin once complained that pollen 
couldn't have been designed. After all, he said, look at the waste! Millions upon millions of 
particles are produced, but very, very few are used in the development of flowers. 

"However, what he didn't realize was that pollen is one of the most useful tools we have in 
the scientific exploration of the past, in part, because it can be dated through Carbon 14. When 
we find pollen in lake sediments and ice cores, we can use it to gauge how old the layered 
deposits are and what the ancient climate was like. 

"Darwin only looked at pollen from a biological standpoint; when we look at the big picture, 
we see it has another use he never anticipated. Perhaps the same is true in many other instances 
throughout the universe." 


I pushed my chair back from the table as if I had just consumed a hearty meal. In a sense, I 
had. Gonzalez and Richards had served me a remarkable feast-fact upon fact, evidence upon 
evidence, discovery upon discovery that compelled an incredible conclusion. As I sat there and 
digested the data, my mind turned to the book God and the Astronomers, which I had been 
reading on the airplane just prior to our interview. 

In one chapter, John A. O'Keefe describes how he went away to school at the age of fourteen 
and began to get into arguments with his roommate about God. These encounters turned him 
toward astronomy, a field where scientists were beginning to find new and exciting evidence 
about the possibility of a Creator. 

After earning degrees from Harvard and the University of Chicago, O'Keefe went on to 
become a renowned astronomer and pioneer in space research. The late Eugene Shoemaker 
called him "the godfather of astrogeology." He was awarded many honors, including the 
Goddard Space Flight Center's highest award, and is credited with numerous breakthrough 
discoveries in his scientific research at NASA. 45 

It was the discoveries of astronomy that bolstered O'Keefe's faith in God. He once ran 
calculations estimating the likelihood of the right conditions for life existing elsewhere. He 
concluded that if his assumptions were correct, then based on the mathematical probabilities 
"only one planet in the universe is likely to bear intelligent life. We know of one-the Earth -but it 
is not certain that there are many others, and perhaps there are no others." 4 

O'Keefe said he would have no theological problem if, indeed, other civilizations existed. 
That's the position of many Christians. 47 God certainly could have created other life-populated 
planets that the Bible doesn't reveal. But it was the sheer improbability of the coincidences that 
conspired to create life on Earth that led O'Keefe to this conclusion: 

We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cossetted, cherished group of creatures; 
our Darwinian claim to have done it all ourselves is as ridiculous and as charming as a 
baby's brave efforts to stand on its own feet and refuse his mother', hand. If the universe 
had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into 
existence. It is m) view that these circumstances indicate the universe was create6for man 
to live in. 

And for humankind to explore. The findings of Gonzalez and Richards that the cosmos was 
designed for discovery have added a compelling new dimension to the evidence for a Creator. 
And frankly, their analysis makes sense. 

If God so precisely and carefully and lovingly and amazingly constructed a mind-boggling 
habitat for his creatures, then it would be natural for him to want them to explore it, to measure 
it, to investigate it, to appreciate it, to be inspired by it-and ultimately, and most importantly, to 
find him through it. 


More Resources on This Topic 

Denton, Michael. Nature's Destiny. New York: The Free Press, 1998. 

Gonzalez, Guillermo and Jay Wesley Richards. The Privileged Planet. Washington, D.C.: 

Regnery, 2004. 
Jastrow, Robert. God and the Astronomers. New York: W W. Norton, second edition, 1992. 

Sampson, Philip. Six Modern Myths. Downer's Grove, 111.: InterVarsity, 2000. 
Ward, Peter and Donald Brownlee. Rare Earth. New York: Copernicus, 2000. 






We have always underestimated the cell.... The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that 
contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed 
of a set of large protein machines.... Why do we call [them] machines? Precisely because, 
like machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these 
protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts. 

Bruce Alberts, President, National Academy of Sciences 

We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the 
dialogue of chance and necessity; but we must concede that there are presently no 
detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of 
wishful speculations. 

Biochemist Franklin M. Harold 

Michael Behe was taught in parochial school that God had set up the universe, knew what 
was going to happen, and intended for life to come into existence, but from our perspective the 
entire process unfolded through Darwinian evolution. And that pretty much satisfied the young 

Later as a student in biochemistry, when Behe would encounter enormously complicated 
biological systems, his response was to scratch his head and say, "Gee, I wonder how evolution 
created that? Well, somebody must know!" He always moved on, assuming someone did. 

Then one day, while doing post-doctorate research on DNA at the National Institutes of 
Health, he and a colleague were pondering what it would take for life to begin by naturalistic 
processes. As they enumerated the components that would be needed-proteins, a genetic code, a 
membrane, and so on-they looked at each other and said, "Naaaaahhhhhh!" They knew there was 
no way life could have sprung into existence unaided. Seeds of skepticism were planted. 

Subsequently, he read geneticist Michael Denton's groundbreaking book Evolution: A 
Theory in Crisis. For the first time, Behe was exposed to a well-reasoned scientific critique of 

Darwinismand he was astounded. Until then, he only knew of "religious nuts" who doubted 
Darwin. Now, here was a thoughtful, agnostic scientist who was powerfully challenging 
whether Darwin's mechanism of natural selection could really explain how life started and 
developed through the ages. 

Spurred on by Denton's book, Behe began scouring the scientific literature in search of the 
detailed Darwinian explanations he had always assumed were there. Time after time, he found 
scientists describing complex, interlocking biological systems and basically saying, "Isn't it 
wonderful how natural selection put this together?" The how was always missing. 

That's when Behe realized that as a biochemist, he was perfectly situated to investigate 
whether the evidence points toward Darwinism or God as the source for living organisms. After 
all, life is essentially a molecular phenomenon. If Darwinian evolution is going to work, it has to 
succeed at the microscopic level of amino acids, proteins, and DNA. On the other hand, if there 
really was a designer of the world, then his fingerprints were going to be all over the cell. 

And the cell is Behe's world-an incredible, intricate, Lilliputian world where a typical cell 
takes ten million million atoms to build. One scientist described a single-cell organism as a high- 
tech factory, complete with 

artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and 
retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and 
components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly 
processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction ... [and] a 
capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of 
replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours. 

Shaking off his preconceptions as best he could, Behe began to scrutinize the molecular 
evidence with new eyes. Ultimately, he would summarize his stunning conclusions in what the 
National Review would call one of the most important non-fiction books of the twentieth 


Lehigh University's "Mountaintop Campus," a seventy-two-acre, e ight-building research 
complex overlooking the hardscrabble city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was littered with brown, 
brittle leaves when I arrived one autumn afternoon in my search for Michael Behe. 

After parking in front of Iacocca Hall, a modern, tan-and-green glass building, I walked up to 
the second floor. I strolled down a long hallway with laboratories on both sides-the Complex 
Carbohydrate Research Lab, the Core Chromatography/Electrophoresis Lab, the Molecular 
Microbiology Research Lab, the Neuroendocrinology Lab, the Core DNA Lab, and the ominous- 
sounding Virology Lab, with an orange biohazard sign plastered on its door. 

The hallway's wall featured scintillating reading-an oversized reproduction of a technical 
article by two Lehigh scientists, asking the provocative question: "How Does Testosterone 
Affect Hippocampal Plasticity in Black-Capped Chickadees?" 

I knocked on the door of a nondescript office and was greeted cheerfully by Behe, dressed in 
blue jeans and a lumberjack shirt. He's enthusiastic, energetic, and engaging, with a quick smile 
and a crackling sense of humor. He always seems to be moving; even when perched on his 
swivel chair, he would roll back and forth ever so slightly. Wiry and balding, with wispy gray 
hair, a beard, and round glasses, he has a gentle and self-effacing manner that tends to put vis- 
itors at ease. 

Behe credits his casual manner to being the father of eight (at the time, going on nine) 
children, who keep him from taking himself too seriously. He laughed when I asked if he had 
any hobbies. "Mostly, I drive kids places," he said. 

Behe grew up on the other side of Pennsylvania. He received a degree in chemistry with 
honors from Drexel University and a doctorate in biochemistry at the University of 
Pennsylvania. After post-doctorate research at the University of Pennsylvania and the National 
Institutes of Health, he joined Lehigh's faculty in 1985. He also has served on the Molecular 
Biochemistry Review Panel of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the 
National Science Foundation. 

He has authored forty articles for such scientific journals as DNA Sequence, The Journal of 
Molecular Biology, Nucleic Acids Research, Biopolymers, Proceedings of the National Academy 
of Sciences USA, Biophysics, and Biochemistry. He has lectured at the Mayo Clinic and dozens 
of schools, including Yale, Carnegie-Mellon, the University of Aberdeen, Temple, Colgate, 
Notre Dame, and Princeton. He is a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and 
Molecular Biology, the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, and other professional 

Behe has contributed to several books, including Mere Creation, Signs of Intelligence, and 
Creation and Evolution. He was catapulted into the national spotlight, however, by his 
enigmatically titled and award- winning best-seller, Darwin's Black Box. According to David 
Berlinski, author of A Tour of the Calculus, Behe's book "makes an overwhelming case against 
Darwin on the biochemical level" through an argument "of great originality, elegance, and 
intellectual power." Added Berlinski: "No one has done this before." 4 

In fact, it was this book that lured me to Lehigh. I knew that Behe's theories could provide 
strong support for the idea that a designer created the tiny but complex molecular machines that 
drive the cellular world-that is, if his arguments could withstand the objections of skeptical 


The "black box" in the title of Behe's book is a term scientists use when describing a system 
or machine that they find interesting but they don't know how it works. As an example, Behe 
gestured toward the Dell computer on his desk. "A computer is a black box for most people," he 
explained. "You type on the keyboard and you can do word processing or play electronic games, 
but most of us don't have the foggiest idea of how the computer actually works." 

"And to Darwin, the cell was a black box," I commented. 

"That's right," he replied. "In Darwin's day, scientists could see the cell under a microscope, 
but it looked like a little glob of Jello, with a dark spot as the nucleus. The cell could do 
interesting thingsit could divide, it could move around-but they didn't know how it did anything." 

"There must have been speculation," I said. 

"Of course," Behe said. "Electricity was a big deal back then, and some believed that all you 
had to do was to zap some gelatinous material and it would come alive. Most scientists 
speculated that the deeper they delved into the cell, the more simplicity they would find. But the 
opposite happened. 

"Now we've probed to the bottom of life, so to speak-we're at the level of molecules-and 
there's complexity all the way down. We've learned the cell is horrendously complicated, and 
that it's actually run by micromachines of the right shape, the right strength, and the right 
interactions. The existence of these machines challenges a test that Darwin himself provided." 

"A test?" I asked. 

"Darwin said in his Origin of Species, v If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ 
existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight 
modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." And that was the basis for my concept 
of irreducible complexity. 

"You see, a system or device is irreducibly complex if it has a number of different 
components that all work together to accomplish the task of the system, and if you were to 
remove one of the components, the system would no longer function. An irreducibly complex 
system is highly unlikely to be built piece-by-piece through Darwinian processes, because the 
system has to be fully present in order for it to function. The illustration I like to use is a 

I chuckled. "Do you have problems with mice at your house?" 

"Actually, yes, we do," he said with a laugh. "But a mousetrap has turned out to be a great 

He stood and walked over to a filing cabinet, removing a run-of-the-mill mousetrap and 
putting it down on the desk next to me. "You can see the interdependence of the parts for 
yourself," he said, pointing to each component as he described them. 

"First, there's a flat wooden platform to which the other parts are attached. Second, there's a 
metal hammer, which does the job of crushing the mouse. Third, there's a spring with extended 
ends to press against the platform and the hammer when the trap is charged. Fourth, there's a 
catch that releases when a mouse applies a slight bit of pressure. And, fifth, there's a metal bar 
that connects to the catch and holds the hammer back when the trap is charged. 

"Now, if you take away any of these parts-the spring or the holding bar or whatever-then it's 
not like the mousetrap becomes half as efficient as it used to be or it only catches half as many 
mice. Instead, it doesn't catch any mice. It's broken. It doesn't work at all." 

He pointed down at the trap again. "And notice that you don't just need to have these five 
parts, but they also have to be matched to each other and have the right spatial relationship to 
each other. See-the parts are stapled in the right place. An intelligent agent does that for a 
mousetrap. But in the cell, who tells the parts where they should go? Who staples them together? 
Nobody-they have to do it on their own. You have to have the information resident in the system 
to tell the components to get together in the right orientation, otherwise it's useless." 

Behe sat back down. "So the mousetrap does a good job of illustrating how irreducibly 
complex biological systems defy a Darwinian explanation," he continued. "Evolution can't 
produce an irreducibly complex biological machine suddenly, all at once, because it's much too 
complicated. The odds against that would be prohibitive. And you can't produce it directly by 
numerous, successive, slight modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor system 
would be missing a part and consequently couldn't function. There would be no reason for it to 
exist. And natural selection chooses systems that are already working." 

I studied the mousetrap. "You said an irreducibly complex system can't be produced directly 
by numerous, successive, slight modifications," I said. "Does that mean there couldn't be an 
indirect route?" 

Behe shook his head. "You can't absolutely rule out all theoretical possibilities of a gradual, 
circuitous route," he said. "But the more complex the interacting system, the far less likely an 
indirect route can account for it. And as we discover more and more of these irreducibly complex 
biological systems, we can be more and more confident that we've met Darwin's criterion of 

I asked, "Are there a lot of different kinds of biological machines at the cellular level?" 
"Life is actually based on molecular machines," he replied. "They haul cargo from one place 
in the cell to another; they turn cellular switches on and off; they act as pulleys and cables; 
electrical machines let current flow through nerves; manufacturing machines build other 
machines; solar-powered machines capture the energy from light and store it in chemicals. 
Molecular machinery lets cells move, reproduce, and process food. In fact, every part of the cell's 
function is controlled by complex, highly calibrated machines." 

Behe motioned toward the mousetrap. "And if the creation of a simple device like this 
requires intelligent design," he said, "then we have to ask, "What about the finely tuned machines 
of the cellular world?' If evolution can't adequately explain them, then scientists should be free to 
consider other alternatives." 

Before I began investigating that issue any further, though, I wanted to stay focused a while 
longer on Behe's whimsical use of the mousetrap to illustrate irreducible complexity. Ever since 
Darwin's Black Box was published, the lowly rodent-catcher has become something of a new 
icon in the debate over evolution versus design. As such, it has been pelted by opposition from 
Darwinists- and I needed to know if Behe could fend off the best challenges. 


"Your mousetrap has generated quite a bit of controversy," I began. "For instance, John 
McDonald of the University of Delaware said mousetraps can work well with fewer parts than 
yours-and he even drew a picture of a trap that's simpler than the one you drew. Doesn't this 
undermine your point that your mousetrap is irreducibly complex?" 

"No, not a bit," he said with a good-natured smile. "I agree there are mousetraps with fewer 
parts than mine. As a matter of fact, I said so in my book! I said you can just prop open a box 
with a stick, or you can use a glue trap, or you can dig a hole for the mouse to fall into, or you 
can do any number of things. 

"The point of irreducible complexity is not that one can't make some other system that could 
work in a different way with fewer parts. The point is that the trap we're considering right now 
needs all of its parts to function. The challenge to Darwinian gradualism is to get to my trap by 
means of numerous, successive, slight modifications. You can't do it. Besides, you're using your 
intelligence as you try. Remember, the audacious claim of Darwinian evolution is that it can put 
together complex systems with no intelligence at all." 

Behe's simple explanation seemed sufficient to defeat McDonald's critique But there was a 
stronger challenge to consider. I reached down into my briefcase and removed a copy of Natural 
History magazine. 

"Kenneth Miller of Brown University has another objection to your trap," I said. Then I read 
him Miller's comments: 

Take away two parts (the catch and the metal bar), and you may not have a mousetrap but 
you do have a three-part machine that makes a fully functional tie clip or paper clip. Take 
away the spring, and you have a two-part key chain. The catch of some mousetraps could 
be used as a fishhook, and the wooden base as a paperweight; useful applications of other 
parts include everything from toothpicks to nutcrackers and clipboard holders. The point, 
which science has long understood, is that bits and pieces of supposedly irreducibly 
complex machines may have different-but still useful-functions.' 

"That's a strong point," I said. "Maybe an irreducibly complex system could develop 
gradually over time, because each of its components could have another function that natural 

selection would preserve on the way toward developing a more complex machine." 
"That's an interesting argument," he said. 
I leaned forward. "Doesn't this dismantle your case?" I asked. 

Behe didn't flinch. "The problem," he replied, "is that it's not an argument against anything 
I've ever said. In my book, I explicitly point out that some of the components of biochemical 
machines can have other functions. But the issue remains-can you use numerous, slight, 
successive modifications to get from those other functions to where we are? 

"Some of this objection seems a bit silly. Could a component of a mousetrap function as a 
paperweight? Well, what do you need to be a paperweight? You need mass. You need to exist. 
An elephant, or my computer, or a stick can be a paperweight. But suppose you go buy a 
paperweight. What would it look like? Most of them are nondescript, roundish things. None of 
them look anything like a precursor to a mousetrap. Besides, look at what he's doing: he's 
starting from the finished product-the mousetrap-and disassembling it and moving a few things 
around to use them for other purposes. Again, that's intelligent design! 

"The question for evolution is not whether you can take a mousetrap and use its parts for 
something else; it's whether you can start with something else and make it into a mousetrap. The 
problem for evolutionists is to start with a less complex system and build a more complex 
system. Even if every component could theoretically have a useful function prior to its assembly 
into the mousetrap, you'd still have the problem of how the mousetrap becomes assembled." 

"Explain further," I said. 

"When people put together a mousetrap, they have the disassembled components in different 
drawers or something, and they grab one from each drawer and put it together. But in the cell, 
there's nobody there to do that. 

"In molecular machines, components have portions of their shape that are complementary to 
each other, so they connect with each other in the right way. A positive charge can attract a 
negative charge, and an oily region can attract another oily region. So if we use the mousetrap as 
an analogy, one end of the spring would have to have a certain shape or magnetism that just 
happened to attract and fit with another component of the trap. They'd all have to fit together that 
way until you had the whole trap assembled by itself. 

"In other words, if you just had the components themselves without the ability to bring the 
other pieces into position, you'd be far from having a functioning mousetrap. Nobody ever 
addresses this problem in the evolutionary literature. If you do any calculations about how likely 
this could occur by itself, you find it's very improbable. Even with small machines, you wouldn't 
expect them to self-assemble during the entire lifetime of the earth. That's a severe problem that 
evolutionists don't like to address." 


The mousetrap emerged unscathed. But of course, it was only intended to be an illustration to 
help people understand irreducibly complex cellular systems. I decided to press forward by 
asking about some specific examples of molecular machines to see whether they could have 
developed by the step-by-step evolutionary process envisioned by Darwin. When I asked Behe 
for a specimen of irreducible complexity, he quickly cited the cilium. 

"Cilia are whiplike hairs on the surface of cells. If the cell is stationary, the cilia move fluid 
across the cell's surface. For instance," he said, pointing toward my throat, "you've got cilia 
lining your respiratory tract. Every cell has about two hundred of them, and they beat in syn- 
chrony in order to sweep mucus toward your throat for elimination. That's how your body expels 

little foreign particles that you accidentally inhale. But cilia also have another function: if the cell 
is mobile, the cilia can row it through a fluid. Sperm cells would be an example; they're pro- 
pelled forward by the rowing action of cilia." 

"That sounds fairly simple," I remarked. 

"That's what scientists used to think when they examined cilia under a light microscope. 
They just looked like little hairs. But now that we have electron microscopes, we've found that 
cilia are, in fact, quite complicated molecular machines. Think about it: most hairs don't beat 
back and forth. What enables cilia to do this? Well, it turns out a cilium is made up of about two 
hundred protein parts." 

"How does it function?" 

He smiled. "I'll try to keep this basic," he said. "There are nine pairs of microtubules, which 
are long, thin, flexible rods, which encircle two single microtubules. The outer microtubules are 
connected to each other by what are called nexin linkers. And each microtubule has a motor 
protein called dynein. The motor protein attaches to one microtubule and has an arm that reaches 
over, grabs the other one, and pushes it down. So the two rods start to slide lengthwise with 
respect to each other. As they start to slide, the nexin linkers, which were originally like loose 
rope, get stretched and become taut. As the dynein pushes farther and farther, it starts to bend the 
apparatus; then it pushes the other way and bends it back. That's how you get the rowing motion 
of the cilium. 

"That doesn't begin to do justice to the complexity of the cilium. But my point is that these 
three parts-the rods, linkers, and motors-are necessary to convert a sliding motion into a bending 
motion so the cilium can move. If it weren't for the linkers, everything would fall apart when the 
sliding motion began. If it weren't for the motor protein, it wouldn't move at all. If it weren't for 
the rods, there would be nothing to move. So like the mousetrap, the cilium is irreducibly 

"Why can't Darwinian evolution account for that?" 

"You only get the motion of the cilium when you've got everything together. None of the 
individual parts can do the trick by themselves. You need them all in place. For evolution to 
account for that, you would have to imagine how this could develop gradually-but nobody has 
been able to do that." 

I ventured a possibility. "Maybe these three components were being used for other purposes 
in the cell and eventually came together for this new function," I said. "For instance, 
microtubules look a bit like girders. Maybe they were used in the structure of primitive cells. Or 
maybe they formed the cellular highways along which the motor proteins moved material within 
the cell." 

Belie didn't look impressed. "A motor protein that has been transporting cargo along a cellular 
highway might not have the strength necessary to push two microtubules relative to each other," 
he replied. "A nexin linker would have to be exactly the right size before it was useful at all. 
Creating the cilium inside the cell would be counterproductive; it would need to extend from the 
cell. The necessary components would have to come together at the right place at the right time, 
even assuming they were all pre-existing in the cell." 

"Isn't it possible that they might all come together by chance?" I asked. 

"It's extraordinarily improbable," he replied. "Let me illustrate it for you. Say there are ten 
thousand proteins in a cell. Now, imagine you live in a town of ten thousand people, and 
everyone goes to the county fair at the same time. Just for fun, everyone is wearing blindfolds 
and is not allowed to speak. There are two other people named Lee, and your job is to link hands 

with them. What are the odds that you could go grab two people at random and create a link of 
Lees? Pretty slim. In fact, it gets worse. In the cell, the mutation rate is extremely low. In our 
analogy, that would mean you could only change partners at the county fair one time a year. 

"So you link with two other people-sorry, they're not the other Lees. Next year, you link with 
two other people. Sorry, no Lees again. How long would it take you to link with the other Lees? 
A very, very long time-and the same is true in the cell. It would take an enormous amount of 
time-a prohibitive amount of time-even to get three proteins together. 

"To make it even more difficult, a recent study in Science magazine found that half the 
proteins in a simple yeast cell don't function alone, but they function as complexes of half a 
dozen proteins or more. Up to fifty proteins are stuck together like cogs in a machine. Of the 
other fifty percent, most are in complexes of three or four. Very few work as single, Lone Ranger 
proteins. So this is a huge problem not only in cilia but in other cells too." 

"Some scientists have pointed out that there are examples of other cilia that don't have some 
of the parts that you contend are essential," I said. "One said, Tn nature, we can find scores of 
cilia lacking one or more of the components supposedly essential to the function of the 
apparatus.' Doesn't the existence of simpler cilia refute your contention that they are irreducibly 

"If you could point to a series of less complex structures that progress from one to the other 
in order to create the cilia I've described, then, yes, that would refute me. But that isn't the case," 
he said. "What the critics say is that you can take away one of the several microtubules and the 
cilium would still function. That's fine. You still need all the basic components-microtubules, 
nexin, and dynein. 

•"Let me give you an analogy. Some big mousetraps-actually, they re rat traps-have double 
springs to make them stronger. You can take one spring away and it would still work to a 
degree. In a sense, the second spring is a redundant component. The cilium is the same way; it's 
got some redundant components. You can take one of the microtubules away and it will still 
function, though maybe not as well. 

"But evolution does not start with the completed trap or completed cilium and take parts 
away; it has to build things up from the bottom. And all cilia have the three critical components 
that I've mentioned. There have been experiments where scientists have removed one of the 
three and the cilium doesn't work. It's broken-just like you'd expect it to be, since it's an 
irreducibly complex machine." 


As amazing as the cilium is, I was even more fascinated by another biological machine for 
propelling cells-the bacterial flagellum. "While cilia act like oars to move cells, it was 
discovered in 1973 that the flagellum performs like a rotary propeller," Behe explained. "Only 
bacteria have them." 

"How does it work?" I asked. 

"Extremely efficiently," he said. "Just picture an outboard motor on a boat and you get a 
pretty good idea of how the flagellum functions, only the flagellum is far more incredible. The 
flagellum's propeller is long and whiplike, made out of a protein called flagellin. This is attached 
to a drive shaft by hook protein, which acts as a universal joint, allowing the propeller and drive 
shaft to rotate freely. Several types of proteins act as bushing material to allow the drive shaft to 
penetrate the bacterial wall and attach to the rotary motor." 

"Where does it get its energy?" I asked. 

"That's an interesting phenomenon," he replied. "Some other biological systems that generate 
movement, like muscles, use energy that has been stored in what's called a "carrier molecule.' 
But the flagellum uses another system-energy generated by a flow of acid through the bacterial 
membrane. This is a complex process that scientists are still studying and trying to understand. 
The whole system works really well-the flagellum's propeller can spin at ten thousand 
revolutions per minute." 

As a car aficionado, I was staggered by that statistic! A friend had recently given me a ride in 
his exotic high-performance sports car, and I knew it wasn't capable of generating that many 
rpms. Even the notoriously high-revving Honda S2000, with a state-of-the-art, fourcylinder, two- 
liter, dual-overhead-cam aluminum block engine, featuring four valves per cylinder and variable 
intake and exhaust valve timing, has a redline of only nine thousand rpms. 9 

"Not only that," Behe continued, "but the propeller can stop spinning within a quarter turn 
and instantly start spinning the other way at ten thousand rpms. Howard Berg of Harvard 
University called it the most efficient motor in the universe. It's way beyond anything we can 
make, especially when you consider its size." 
"How small is it?" 

"A flagellum is on the order of a couple of microns. A micron is about 1/20,000 of an inch. 
Most of its length is the propeller. The motor itself would be maybe l/100,000ths of an inch. 
Even with all of our technology, we can't even begin to create something like this. Sometimes in 
my lectures I show a drawing of the flagellum from a biochemistry textbook, and people say it 
looks like something from NASA. If you think about it, we've discovered machines inside our- 
selves. On Star Trek they had a creature called the Borg, which has tiny machines inside. Well, it 
turns out everybody does!" 

Drawings of the flagellum are, indeed, very impressive, since they look uncannily like a 
machine that human beings would construct. I remember a scientist telling me about his father, 
an accomplished engineer who was highly skeptical about claims of intelligent design. The dad 
could never understand why his son was so convinced that the world had been designed by an 
intelligent agent. One day the scientist put a drawing of the bacterial flagellum in front of him. 
Fascinated, the engineer studied it silently for a while, then looked up and said to his son with a 
sense of wonder: "Oh, now I get what you've been saying." 

"Think of this too," Behe continued. "Imagine a boat with its motor running. Uh-oh! 
Nobody's steering it. It goes out and crashes&oom/ Well, who's steering the bacterial cell? It 
turns out it has sensory systems that feed into the bacteria flagellum and tell it when to turn on 
and when to turn off, so that it guides it to food, light, or whatever it's seeking. In a sense, it's 
like those smart missiles that have guidance systems to help them find their target, except there's 
no explosion at the end!" 

"And the flagellum is irreducibly complex?" 

"That's right," he said. "Genetic studies have shown that between thirty and thirty-five 
proteins are needed to create a functional flagellum. I haven't even begun to describe all of its 
complexities; we don't even know the roles of all its proteins. But at a minimum you need at least 
three parts-a paddle, a rotor, and a mo tor- that are made up of various proteins. Eliminate one of 
those parts and you don't get a flagellum that only spins at five thousand rpms; you get a 
flagellum that simply doesn't work at all. So it's irreducibly complexand a huge stumbling block 
to Darwinian theory." 

I asked, "Has anyone been able to propose a step-by-step evolutionary explanation of how a 

gradual process could have yielded a flagellum?" 

"In a word-no," he said with a chuckle. "For most irreducibly complex systems, the best you 
get is a sort of hand- waving, cartoonish explanation, but certainly nothing that approaches being 
realistic. Even evolutionary biologist Andrew Pomiankowski admitted: Tick up any 
biochemistry textbook, and you will find perhaps two or three references to evolution. Turn to 
one of these and you will be lucky to find anything better than v evolution selects the fittest mole- 
cules for their biological function.' 

"But for the flagellum, there aren't even any cartoon explanations. The best the Darwinists 
have been able to muster is to say that the flagellum has components that look like the 
components of other systems that don't have as many parts, so maybe somehow this other system 
had something to do with the flagellum. Nobody knows where this subsystem came from in the 
first place, or how or why the subsystem may have turned into a flagellum. So, no, there's no 
reasoned explanation anyone has been able to offer." 

I tried another approach. "What about Darwinists who say, "Maybe it's merely too early for us 
to come up with a road map of how these gradual changes developed. Someday we'll better 
understand the flagellum, so have patience-in the end, science is going to figure it out.'" 

Behe leaned back in his chair. "You know, Darwinists always accuse folks in the Intelligent 
Design movement of making an argument from ignorance. Well, that's a pure argument from 
ignorance! They're saying, "We have no idea how this could have happened, but let's assume 
evolution somehow did it.' You've heard of 'Godof-the-gaps'-inserting God when you don't have 
another explanation? Well, this is 'evolution-of-the-gaps.' Some scientists merely insert evolution 
when they don't understand something. 

"Look-we may not understand everything about these biological systems, but we do know 
some things. We do know that these systems have a number of very specifically matched 
components that do not lend themselves to a gradualistic explanation. We know that intelligence 
can assemble complex systems, like computers and mousetraps and things like that. The 
complexity we see is not going to be alleviated by the more we learn; it can only get more 
complicated. We will only discover more details about the systems. 

"Here's an illustration. Let's say you have a car in a dark garage. You shine a flashlight on 
one part of the engine and you see all of its components and its obvious complexity. Shining the 
flashlight on another part of the motor isn't going to make the first part go away. It isn't going to 
make the problem any simpler; it's going to make it more complicated. And as we discover more 
about the flagellum, it won't negate the complexity we've already found. All we'll have is an even 
more complicated, more impressive, more interdependent machineand an even greater challenge 
to Darwinian theory." 


According to Behe, the cilium and bacterial flagellum are just the beginning of the Darwin- 
defying complexity in the microscopic world of the cell. One of his other favorites is the "intra- 
cellular transport system." 

"The cell is not a simple bag of soup, with everything sloshing around," he said. "Instead, 
eukaryotic cells-cells of all organisms except bacteria-have a number of compartments, sort of 
like rooms in a house. 

"There's the nucleus, where the DNA resides; the mitochondria, which produce energy; the 
endoplasmic reticulum, which processes proteins; the Golgi apparatus, which is a way station 
for proteins that are being transported elsewhere; the lysosome, which is a garbage disposal unit; 

secretory vesicles, which store cargo before it's sent out of the cell; and the peroxisome, which 
helps metabolize fats. Each compartment is sealed off by a membrane, just like a room has walls 
and a door. In fact, the mitochondrion has four separate sections. Counting everything, there are 
more than twenty different sections in each cell. 

"Cells are constantly getting rid of old stuff and manufacturing new components, and these 
components are designed to work in one room but not others. Most new components are made at 
a central location in the cell on things called ribosomes. " 

Denton has described the ribosome, a collection of some fifty large molecules containing 
more than one million atoms, as an automated factory that can synthesize any protein that it is 
instructed to make by DNA. Given the correct genetic information, in fact, it can construct any 
protein-based biological machine, including another ribosome, regardless of the complexity. 
Denton marveled: 

It is astonishing to think that this remarkable piece of machinery, which possesses the 
ultimate capacity to construct every living thing that has ever existed on Earth, from a 
giant redwood to the human brain, can construct all its own components in a matter of 
minutes and ... is of the order of several thousand million million times smaller than the 
smallest piece of functional machinery ever constructed by man." 

"Not only is the ribosome amazing," Behe said, "but now you're faced with the challenge of 
getting these new components into the right rooms where they can operate. In order to do that, 
you need to have another complicated system, just like you need a lot of things in place for a 
Greyhound bus to take someone from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. 

"First of all, you've got to have molecular trucks, which are enclosed and have motors attached to 
them. You've got to have little highways for them to travel along. You've got to be able to 
identify which components are supposed to go into which truck-after all, it doesn't do any good if 
you just grab any protein that comes along, because each one needs to go to a specific room. So 
there has to be a signal attached to the protein- sort of a ticket- to let the protein onto the right 
molecular truck. The truck has to know where it's going, which means having a signal on the 
truck itself and a complementary signal on the compartment where the truck is supposed to 
unload its cargo. 

"When the truck arrives where it's supposed to go, it's kind of like a big ocean liner that has 
crossed from London to New York. It pulls u p at the dock and everyone's waving-but, oops, they 
forgot the gang plank. Now what are you going to do? You see, you've got to have a way for the 
cargo to get out of the truck and into the compartment, and it turns out this is an active process 
that involves other components recognizing each other, physically opening things up, and 
allowing the material to go inside. 

"So you've got numerous components, all of which have to be in place or nothing works. If 
you don't have the signal, if you don't have the truck, you're pretty much out of luck. Now, does 
this microscopic transportation system sound like something that self- assembled by gradual 
modifications over the years? I don't see how it could have been. To me, it has all the earmarks 
of being designed." 


There was a pause in our conversation as my mind processed the stupefying complexity of 
the cilium, flagellum, and intracellular transport system. As I began to formulate my next line of 
questioning, Behe noticed a Band- Aid on one of my fingers, covering a cut I had received while 

picking up pieces of broken glass the previous day. 

"Irreducible complexity is a very relevant topic," he commented as he gestured toward the 
bandage. "An irreducibly complex system just saved your life." 

"What do you mean?" I asked. 

"Blood clotting," he said. "If your blood hadn't clotted in the right place and in the right 
amount and at the right time, you would have bled to death. As it turns out, the system of blood 
clotting involves a highly choreographed cascade of ten steps that use about twenty different 
molecular components. Without the whole system in place, it doesn't work." 

Suddenly, I felt a personal stake in the topic. "Tell me more," I said. 

"The real trick with blood clotting isn't so much the clot itself-it's just a blob that blocks the 
flow of blood-but it's the regulation of the system," he continued. 

"If you make a clot in the wrong place-say, the brain or lung you'll die. If you make a clot 
twenty minutes after all the blood has drained from your body, you'll die. If the blood clot isn't 
confined to the cut, your entire blood system might solidify, and you'll die. If yo u make a clot 
that doesn't cover the entire length of the cut, you'll die. To create a perfectly balanced blood- 
clotting system, clusters of protein components have to be inserted all at once. That rules out a 
gradualistic Darwinian approach and fits the hypothesis of an intelligent designer." 

Surely, I thought to myself, there must be another way. "Some scientists have proposed that a 
process called "gene duplication' can account for the creation of new components for complex 
biological systems," I said. "Why wouldn't that work with blood clotting?" 

Gene duplication can happen during the process of cell division when DNA is being copied 
from the original cell for use in the new cell. Occasionally, the process goes awry and a piece of 
DNA, perhaps a gene, is copied twice. This creates an extra gene. While the original gene can go 
about its pre-assigned role, the extra gene can drift and perhaps create a new function. Some 
scientists have theorized that this is how new components might be created for irreducible 

"Sure, gene duplication happens," Behe replied. "But what the fans of gene duplication rarely 
recognize is that when you get a duplicated gene, you don't get a new protein with new 
properties. You've got the same protein as before. And that's a problem." 

I was having difficulty seeing why. "Could you explain that?" I asked. 

He glanced down at the mousetrap, which was still sitting on his desk. "Let's go back to the 
mousetrap analogy," he said. "Suppose you have a one-component mousetrap, with two ends of a 
metal spring being bent and pressing against each other under tension so that if a mouse disturbs 
them, they'll slip and spring and hopefully catch a paw or tail. And say you wanted to develop a 
more efficient two-component trap that has a wooden base as well as the spring. 

"According to the concept of gene duplication, you would make a copy of the first spring. 
Now you've got two springs-except the second spring somehow becomes a wooden base. Do you 
see the conceptual disconnect? You can't just say the spring somehow morphs into a wooden 
base without doing more than just saying, "gene duplication did it' The problem is, Darwinists 
don't provide the details of how this can actually happen in the real world. 

"When one scientist tried to come up with a step-by-step scenario of how blood-clotting could 
have developed, he couldn't avoid generalizing by saying a component suddenly "appears,' or "is 
born,' or, "arises,' or, "springs forth,' or "is unleashed.'" What's causing all of this springing forth 
and unleashing? There's no meaningful explanation of what could have caused these steps to take 
place. These are details that doom these scenarios. 

"And there are a lot more problems than that. How can blood clotting develop over time, step 

by step, when in the meantime the animal has no effective way to stop from bleeding to death 
whenever it's cut? And when you've only got part of a system in place, the system doesn't work, 
so you've got the components sitting around doing nothing-and natural selection only works if 
there is something useful right now, not in the future. 

"Besides, at best the explanations that some people attempt are mere word pictures. In science 
we're supposed to do experiments to show something is true. Nobody has ever done experiments 
to show how blood-clotting could have developed. Nobody has been able to show how a 
duplicated gene can develop some new function where it starts to make a new and irreducibly 
complex pathway." 


There is a scientific way, however, to establish through experimental data whether Belie's 
concept of irreducible complexity is really an insuperable barrier for Darwinism. I was anxious 
to see whether Behe's ideas could survive this formidable challenge from Miller, a biology 
professor who's an ardent and outspoken evolutionist. 

The "true acid test," explained Miller, would be to use "the tools of molecular genetics to 
wipe out an existing multi-part system and then see if evolution can come to the rescue with a 
system to replace it. "13 If the system can be replaced purely by naturalistic evolutionary 
processes, then Behe's theory has been disproved. 

After describing Miller's challenge, I asked Behe: "Do you agree this would be a fair test?" 

Without hesitation, he said: "Yes, I agree. That's a terrific test." 

Then I said: "Miller went on to describe an experiment by scientist Barry Hall of the 
University of Rochester to show how this apparently was done in the laboratory. Miller 
concluded: v No doubt about it-th e evolution of biochemical systems, even complex multi-part 
ones, is explicable in terms of evolution. Behe is wrong.'" 14 

I faced Behe squarely. "Tell me, has Hall proved through his experiment that your theory is 

Unflustered, Behe replied: "No, not really. Actually, Hall is very modest about what his 
experiment shows. He didn't knock out a complex system and then show how evolution can 
replace it. Instead, he knocked out one component of a system that has five or six components. 
And replacing one component in a complex system is a lot easier than building one from scratch. 

"For instance, suppose someone told you that natural processes could produce a working 
television set. You'd say, "That's interesting. Why don't you show me?' He would then unplug a 
thousand television sets. Eventually, a strong wind would come along and blow one plug back 
into the outlet, and the TV would come on. He would say, v See? I told you that natural processes 
could produce a working TV.' But that's not exactly what happened. He wasn't producing a new 
complex system; there was a glitch introduced and he showed that on occasion this can be fixed 
by random processes. 

"That's a little like what went on with Hall's experiment with the bacterium E. coll. There 
was a complex system with a number of different parts, he knocked out one of them, and after a 
while he showed that random processes came up with a fix for that one part. That's a far cry from 
producing a brand new system from scratch. 

"But there's something equally important: Hall made it clear that he had intervened to keep 
the system going while evolution was trying to come up with a replacement for the missing part. 
In other words, he added a chemical to the mixture that gave it the time to come up with the 
mutation that fixed the glitch. The result never would have actually happened in nature without 

his intelligent intervention in the experiment. 

"Here's another analogy. Suppose you say you can make a three-legged stool by random 
processes. You take a three-legged stool and break off one leg. Then you hold up the stool so it 
won't fall over. Finally, a wind comes along, knocks down a tree branch, and it accidentally falls 
right where the missing leg had been. You're intervening to help the stool through the stage 
where it would otherwise have fallen over and you've made it possible for the branch to fit in the 
right place. 

"Back to Hall's experiment. Without going into the technical details, which I've done in more 
formal responses," in nature you couldn't have gotten just the mutation that he got in the 
laboratory. You would have had to have simultaneously gotten a second mutation-and the odds 
of that would have been prohibitive. Hall made it clear that he intervened so that he would get 
results that would never have actually happened in the natural world. And that is injecting 
intelligence into the system. 

"When you analyze the entire experiment, the result is exactly what you would expect of 
irreducible complexity requiring intelligent intervention. Unintentionally, he has shown the 
limits of Darwinism and the need for design." 


"What about other alternatives to Darwinian gradualism?" I asked. "How about self- 
organization? Maybe there's some sort of selforganizational property in biochemistry that 
encourages the parts of molecular machines to self-assemble." 

"Just like natural selection explains some things, self organization explains some things too. 
The controversy arises when they're used to explain big things or everything," Behe said. 

"It's true that if you pull out the plug in your bathtub, the water forms a little whirlpool. That's 
self-organization: the water is moving in an organized fashion whereas it wasn't before. 
Tornadoes organize themselves. If you mix chemicals together in a certain way, you get a system 
that acts like a clock. It will turn blue, five seconds later it will turn colorless, and it will oscillate 
back and forth. So it's clear that there is such a thing as self-organization. 

"The question is, can it explain more complicated phenomena? Can it explain the genetic 
code? Scientists trying to solve the riddle of the origin of life have been exploring self- 
organizational properties for decades. Yet today they're more confused about the origin of life 
than fifty years ago. They haven't come up with any explanation for how self-organization could 
account for something as complex as even the first primitive living organism. 

"Right now, there's only one principle that we know can come up with complex interactive 
systems, and that's intelligence. Natural selection has been proposed, but there's little or no 
evidence backing that claim. Some people had high hopes for self-organizational properties or 
complexity theory, but there's no evidence that these can explain something as complicated as 
the cell. The only force known to be able to make irreducibly complex machines is intelligent 

"So scientists are in the curious position of ignoring something they know to be capable of 
explaining what they see in biology, in favor of phantom or totally unproven explanations. Why 
ignore intelligent design when it's a good match to the data? Yes, we have to keep an open mind 
in science, but we shouldn't be ignoring the most obvious explanation for all the evidence we 
have today." 

"One reason some scientists are reluctant," I said, "is because they claim intelligent design is 
not falsifiable." I was referring to the belief among many philosophers and scientists that a 

theory cannot truly be scientific unless there are potential ways to prove it false through 
experiments or other means. 16 

"That's silly," Behe replied. 

"But I hear it over and over," I insisted. "The National Academy of Sciences said: "Intelligent 
design ... [is] not science because [it's] not testable by the methods of science.'" 

"Yes, I know," he said, "but what's really ironic is that intelligent design is routinely called 
unfalsifiable by the very people who are busy trying to falsify it! As you just pointed out, Miller 
proposed a test that would falsify the claim that intelligence is needed to produce an irreducibly 
complex system. So I don't see the problem. Intelligent design's strong point is that it's 
falsifiable, just like a good scientific theory should be. Frankly, I'd say it's more falsifiable than 
Darwinism is." 

"Come on," I said. "Do you really believe that?" 

"Yes, I do, and I'll give you an example," he replied. "My claim is that there is no 
unintelligent process that could produce the bacterial flagellum. To falsify that claim, all you 
would have to do would be to find one unintelligent process that could produce that system. On 
the other hand, Darwinists claim that some unintelligent process could produce the flagellum. To 
falsify that, you'd have to show that the system could not possibly have been created by any of a 
potentially infinite number of possible unintelligent processes. That's impossible to do. So which 
claim is falsifiable? I'd say the claim for intelligent design." 

That isn't the only objection that Behe has turned on its head. While Darwinists often accuse 
intelligent design proponents of letting their religious beliefs color their science, Behe once told 
a newspaper reporter: "It has been my experience ... that the ones who oppose the theory of 
design most vociferously do so for religious reasons."" 8 

"What did you mean by that?" I asked. 

"It seems that the folks who get the most animated when talking about Darwinian evolution 
are the ones most concerned with the philosophical and theological ramifications of the theory, 
not the science itself," he explained. 

"Scientists propose hypotheses all the time. No big deal. But if I say, V I don't think natural 
selection is the driving force for the development of life; I think it was intelligent design,' people 
don't just disagree; many of them jump up and down and get red in the face. When you talk to 
them about it, invariably they're not excited because they disagree with the science; it's because 
they see the extra- scientific implications of intelligent design and they don't like where it's 

Behe shrugged. "I guess that's okay," he added. "These are important issues and people can 
get emotional about them. But we should not use what we want to be true to dismiss arguments 
or try to avoid them." 


Behe's concept of irreducible complexity is at once a negative and a positive argument. First, 
he has taken Darwin at his own word and demonstrated how these interconnected biological 
systems could not have been created through the numerous, successive, slight modifications that 
his theory demands. The result has been a staggeringsome say lethal-blow to Darwinism. 

Second, Behe has pointed out that there is an alternative that does sufficiently explain how 
complex biological machines could have been created. Once again, as with the previous experts I 
had interviewed on cosmology, physics, and astronomy, the evidence conspires to point toward a 
transcendent Creator. 

"My conclusion can be summed up in a single word: design, " Behe said as we came to the end 
of our interview. "I say that based on science. I believe that irreducibly complex systems are 
strong evidence of a purposeful, intentional design by an intelligent agent. No other theory 
succeeds; certainly not Darwinism. 

"Based on the empirical evidence-which is continuing to mount-I'd agree with Joseph 
Cardinal Ratzinger that "the great projects of the living creation are not the products of chance 
and error.... [They] point to a creating Reason and show us a creating Intelligence, and they do so 
more luminously and radiantly today than ever before.'" 19 

"Your book has been out for several years now," I said. "How well do you think it has 
endured so far?" 

"I'm very pleased with how things stand," he said, leaning back in his chair and casually 
folding his arms over his chest. "It has attracted a lot of attention from people who have tried to 
knock it down, but they haven't been able to do it. Complex biological systems have yet to be 
explained by naturalistic means. That's a fact. Even Darwinists admit that in their candid 
moments. And as science advances, we're continuing to find more and more complexity in the 
cellular world. This, Lee, is the arrow of progress. 

"I do hear occasional complaints that science needs to pretend that everything works by 
natural law and that intelligent design is "giving up.' I've never seen the logic of that. The 
purpose of science, it seems to me, is to find out how things got here and how they work. Science 
should be the search for truth, not merely the search for materialistic explanations. The great 
scientists of history-Newton and Einstein, for instance-never thought science's job was to come 
up with some sort of self-sufficient explanation for nature. This is a recent innovation, and not a 
good one-especially in light of discoveries during the last fifty years that have pointed in the 
exact opposite direction." 

Behe and I continued to talk for a while, then we shook hands and parted ways. As I 
lingered in the hallway, peering through the glass into various laboratories where scientists were 
hard at work, I thought of the concession by microbiologist James Shapiro of the University of 
Chicago in his review of Behe's book: "There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the 
evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful 
speculations." 20 

Shapiro might not be amenable to Behe's ultimate conclusions, but personally I wasn't ready 
to bank on wishful speculations. Connecting the dots from my interviews with William Lane 
Craig, Robin Collins, Guillermo Gonzalez, Jay Richards, and now Michael Behe, I was coming 
up with a picture that was squarely at odds with the icons that had once led me into atheism. In 
the words of Allan Sandage, one of the most highly respected scientists of our age: 

The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance 
alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is 
simply too well put together. Each part of a living thing depends on all its other parts to 
function. How does each part know? How is each part specified at conception? The more 
one learns of biochemistry the more unbelievable it becomes unless there is some type of 
organizing principle-an architect for believers, a mystery to be solved by science (even as 
to why) sometime in the indefinite future for materialist reductionalists. 21 

That mystery was going to take me even deeper inside the awe-inspiring, microscopic realm 
of the cell. As I started my rental car and began to drive down the asphalt road from Lehigh's 
Mountaintop Campus, I remembered that Stephen Meyer, the philosopher of science I had 

already interviewed about the relationship between science and faith, has written extensively on 
DNA. This seemed like a good time for a new chat about where the arrow of genetics might be 


More Resources on This Topic 

Behe, Michael J. Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New 
York: Touchstone, 1996. 

. "Darwin's Breakdown: Irreducible Complexity and Design at the Foundation of 
Life." In Signs of Intelligence, eds. William A. Dembski and James M. Kushiner. 
Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos, 2001. 

. "Evidence for Design at the Foundation of Life" and "Answering Scientific 
Criticisms of Intelligent Design." In Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe, 
eds. Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer. San Francisco: 
Ignatius, 2000. 

. "Intelligent Design Theory as a Tool for Analyzing Biochemical Systems." In 
Mere Creation, ed. William A. Dembski. Downer's Grove, 111.: InterVarsity Press, 


Human DNA contains more organized information than the Encyclopedia Britannica. If 
the full text of the encyclopedia were to arrive in computer code from outer space, most 
people would regard this as proof of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. But 
when seen in nature, it is explained as the workings of random forces. 

George S im Johnson 

Einstein said, "God does not play dice. " He was right, God plays Scrabble. 

Philip Gold 

In 1953, when Francis Crick told his wife Odile that he and a colleague had discovered the secret 
of life-the chemical structure of DNA, where the instructions for building proteins were encoded- 
she didn't believe him. Years later, she confessed to her husband: "You were always coming 
home and saying things like that, so naturally I thought nothing of it." 

This time, he wasn't exaggerating. He and James D. Watson would win the Nobel Prize for 
discovering the now-famous double helix of deoxyribonucleic acid, where the "language of life" 
is stored. 

For more than fifty years, as scientists have studied the six feet of DNA that's tightly coiled 
inside every one of our body's one hundred trillion cells they have marveled at how it provides 
the genetic information necessary to create all of the proteins out of which our bodies are built. 
In fact, each one of the thirty thousand genes that are embedded in our twenty-three pairs of 
chromosomes can yield as many as 20,500 different kinds of proteins. 4 

The astounding capacity of microscopic DNA to harbor this mountain of information, 
carefully spelled out in a four-letter chemical alphabet, "vastly exceeds that of any other known 
system," said geneticist Michael Denton. 

In fact, he said the information needed to build the proteins for all the species of organisms 
that have ever lived-a number estimated to be approximately one thousand million- "could be 

held in a teaspoon and there would still be room left for all the information in every book ever 
written." 5 

DNA serves as the information storehouse for a finely choreographed manufacturing process 
in which the right amino acids are linked together with the right bonds in the right sequence to 
produce the right kind of proteins that fold in the right way to build biological systems. The 
documentary Unlocking the Mystery of Life, which has aired on numerous PBS television 
stations, describes the elaborate operation this way: 

In a process known as transcription, a molecular machine first unwinds a section of the 
DNA helix to expose the genetic instructions needed to assemble a specific protein 
molecule. Another machine then copies these instructions to form a molecule known as 
messenger RNA. When transcription is complete, the slender RNA strand carries the 
genetic information ... out of the cell nucleus. The messenger RNA strand is directed to a 
two-part molecular factory called a ribosome.... Inside the ribosome, a molecular 
assembly line builds a specifically sequenced chain of amino acids. These amino acids are 
transported from other parts of the cell and then linked into chains often hundreds of units 
long. Their sequential arrangement determines the type of protein manufactured. When 
the chain is finished, it is moved from the ribosome to a barrelshaped machine that helps 
fold it into the precise shape critical to its function. After the chain is folded into a protein, 
it is then released and shepherded by another molecular machine to the exact location 
where it is needed. 6 

It was this "absolutely mind-boggling" procedure that helped lead biology professor Dean 
Kenyon to repudiate the conclusions of his own book on the chemical origin of life and conclude 
instead that nothing short of an intelligence could have created this intricate cellular apparatus. 
"This new realm of molecular genetics [is] where we see the most compelling evidence of design 
on the Earth," he said. 

It seemed fitting that when scientists announced that they had finally mapped the three billion 
codes of the human genome-a project that filled the equivalent of 75,490 pages of The New York 
Times-divine references abounded. President Clinton said scientists were "learning the language 
in which God created life," while geneticist Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome 
Project, said DNA was "our own instruction book, previously known only to God." 8 

Are such public bows to a Creator merely a polite social custom, meant only as a nodding 
courtesy to a predominantly theistic country? Or does the bounty of information in DNA really 
warrant the conclusion that an intelligent designer must have infused genetic material with its 
protein-building instructions? Are there any naturalistic processes that can account for the 
appearance of biological data in the earliest cells? 

I knew where to go to get answers. One of the country's leading experts on origin-of-life 
issues, who has written extensively on the implications of the information in DNA, resides in 
Washington state. He and I had already discussed the intersection of faith and science for 
Chapter Four of this book; now it was time to sit down with him again, this time in his new 
quarters at the Discovery Institute in downtown Seattle. 


Since our last discussion, philosopher and scientist Stephen Meyer had moved with his wife 
and three children to the outskirts of Seattle so he could focus on his role as Director and Senior 
Fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. 9 He continues to keep one 

foot in academia, however, as professor of the Conceptual Foundations of Science at Palm Beach 
Atlantic University. 

Meyer earned his doctorate at Cambridge University, where he analyzed scientific and 
methodological issues in origin-of-life biology. For his master's degree, also from Cambridge, he 
studied the history of molecular biology and evolutionary theory. 

He has written about DNA and the problem of the origin of biological information for the 
books Debating Design, published by Cambridge University Press; Darwinism, Design, and 
Public Education, published by Michigan State University Press; Science and Evidence for 
Design in the Universe; Signs of Intelligence; and Mere Creation. Lately he has been finishing a 
book called DNA by Design: The Signature in the Cell, which further expands on his analysis of 
biological information. 

We got together on an unusually sultry summer day, had a pleasant lunch in an avant-garde 
Asian restaurant, and then settled into an office at the Discovery Institute. Meyer lowered his 
lanky frame into a plain wooden chair, his back to a half-opened window through which random 
traffic noises could be heard. It was nearly midafternoon before we got started with our 

It was clear that Meyer likes the give-and-take of interviews. Although Meyer is typically 
more professorial than pugnacious, I've never heard of him shying away from tough questions or 
even rhetorically bloody debates with fervent Darwinists. 

In fact, I once hosted the videotaping of an intellectual shoot-out between Meyer and an 
atheistic anthropologist on the legitimacy of intelligent-design theories, and I remember walking 
away amazed at Meyer's finesse in deftly dismantling the professor's case while at the same time 
forcefully presenting his own. Maybe that's a throwback to Meyer's earlier years when he trained 
as a boxer, learning to overcome fears of taking a punch and how to jab away at an opponent's 

As for me, I wasn't after blood in this interview; I was merely seeking straightforward 
answers to an issue that has befuddled originof-life scientists for the last five decades. Even 
though most Darwinists concede they are stumped on the question of how DNA and life itself 
came into existence, 1 ' they don't like Meyer's conclusions on the matter. I didn't care much about 
that; my criterion was simple: what makes the most sense from a purely scientific perspective? 


I began our discussion by reading Meyer a quote that I had encountered in my research and 
scribbled in my notes. "According to Bernd-Olaf Kuppers, the author of Information and the 
Origin of Life, v The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of 
the origin of biological information,'"" I said. "Do you agree with him?" 

"Oh, absolutely, yes," Meyer replied. "When I ask students what they would need to get their 
computer to perform a new function, they reply, v You have to give it new lines of code.' The 
same principle is true in living organisms. 

"If you want an organism to acquire a new function or structure, you have to provide 
information somewhere in the cell. You need instructions for how to build the cell's important 
components, which are mostly proteins. And we know that DNA is the repository for a digital 
code containing the instructions for telling the cell's machinery how to build proteins. Kuppers 
recognized that this was a critical hurdle in explaining how life began: where did this genetic 
information come from? 

"Think of making soup from a recipe. You can have all the ingredients on hand, but if you 

don't know the proper proportions, or which items to add in what order, or how long to cook the 
concoction, you won't get a soup that tastes very good. 

"Well, a lot of people talk about the "prebiotic soup'-the chemicals that supposedly existed on 
the primitive Earth prior to life. Even if you had the right chemicals to create a living cell, you 
would also need information for how to arrange them in very specific configurations in order to 
perform biological functions. Ever since the 1950s and 1960s, biologists have recognized that the 
cell's critical functions are usually performed by proteins, and proteins are the product of 
assembly instructions stored in DNA." 

"Let's talk about DNA, then," I said. "You've written that there's a'DNA-to-design argument.' 
What do you mean by that?" 

Meyer removed a pair of gold-rimmed glasses from his shirt pocket and put them on as he 
began to give his answer. "Very simply," he said, "I mean that the origin of information in DNA- 
which is necessary for life to begin-is best explained by an intelligent cause rather than any of 
the types of naturalistic causes that scientists typically use to explain biological phenomena." 
"When you talk about "information' in DNA, what exactly do you mean?" I asked. 
"We know from our experience that we can convey information with a twenty- six-letter 
alphabet, or twenty-two, or thirty-or even just two characters, like the zeros and ones used in the 
binary code in computers. One of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century 
was that DNA actually stores information-the detailed instructions for assembling proteins-in the 
form of a four-character digital code. 

"The characters happen to be chemicals called adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. 
Scientists represent them with the letters A, G, C, and T, and that's appropriate because they 
function as alphabetic characters in the genetic text. Properly arranging those four "bases,' as 
they're called, will instruct the cell to build different sequences of amino acids, which are the 
building blocks of proteins. Different arrangements of characters yields different sequences of 
amino acids." 

With that, Meyer decided to show me an illustration he often uses with college students. 
Reaching over to a desk drawer, he took out several oversized plastic snap-lock beads of the sort 
that young children play with. "It says on the box that these are for kids ages two to four, so this 
is advanced chemistry," he joked. 

He held up orange, green, blue, red, and purple beads of different shapes. "These represent 
the structure of a protein. Essentially, a protein is a long linear array of amino acids," he said, 
snapping the beads together in a line. "Because of the forces between the amino acids, the 
proteins fold into very particular three-dimensional shapes," he added as he bent and twisted the 
line of beads. 

"These three-dimensional shapes are highly irregular, sort of like the teeth in a key, and they 
have a lock-key fit with other molecules in the cell. Often, the proteins will catalyze reactions, 
or they'll form structural molecules, or linkers, or parts of the molecular machines that Michael 
Behe writes about. This specific three-dimensional shape, which allows proteins to perform a 
function, derives directly from the one-dimensional sequencing of amino acids." 

Then he pulled some of the beads apart and began rearranging their order. "If I were to 
switch a red one and a blue one, I'd be setting up a different combination of force interactions 
and the protein would fold completely differently. So the sequence of the amino acids is critical 
to getting the long chain to fold properly to form an actual functional protein. Wrong sequence, 
no folding-and the sequence of amino acids is unable to serve its function. 

"Proteins, of course, are the key functional molecule in the cell; you can't have life without 

them. Where do they come from? Well, that question forces a deeper issue-what's the source of 
the assembly instructions in DNA that are responsible for the one-dimensional sequential 
arrangements of amino acids that create the three-dimensional shapes of proteins? Ultimately," 
he emphasized, "the functional attributes of proteins derive from information stored in the DNA 


I was fascinated by the process that Meyer had described. "What you're saying is that DNA 
would be like a blueprint for how to build proteins," I said, using an analogy I had heard many 
times before. 

Meyer hesitated. "Actually, I don't like the blueprint metaphor," he said. "You see, there are 
probably other sources of information in the cell and in organisms. As important as DNA is, it 
doesn't build everything. All it builds are the protein molecules, but they are only sub-units of 
larger structures that themselves are informatively arranged." 

"Then what's a better analogy?" I asked. 

"DNA is more like a library," he said. "The organism accesses the information that it needs 
from DNA so it can build some of its critical components. And the library analogy is better 
because of its alphabetic nature. In DNA, there are long lines of A, C, G, and T's that are 
precisely arranged in order to create protein structure and folding. To build one protein, you 
typically need 1,200 to 2,000 letters or bases-which is a lot of information." 

"And this raises the question again of the origin of that information," I said. 

"It's not just that a question has been raised," he insisted. "This issue has caused all 
naturalistic accounts of the origin of life to break down, because it's the critical and foundational 
question. If you can't explain where the information comes from, you haven't explained life, 
because it's the information that makes the molecules into something that actually functions." 

I asked, "What does the presence of information tell you?" 

"I believe the presence of information in the cell is best explained by the activity of an 
intelligent agent," he replied. "Bill Gates said, V DNA is like a software program, only much more 
complex than anything we've ever devised.' That's highly suggestive, because we know that at 
Microsoft, Gates uses intelligent programmers to produce software. Information theorist Henry 
Quastler said as far back as the 1960s that the "creation of new information is habitually 
associated with conscious activity.'" 

"But we're talking about something-the origin of information and life-that happened a long 
time ago," I said. "How can scientists reconstruct what happened in the distant past?" 

"By using a scientific principle of reasoning that's called uniformitarianism, " Meyer replied. 
"This is the idea that our present knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships should guide our 
reconstruction of what caused something to arise in the past." 

"For example . . . ," I said and paused, hoping to prompt an illustration that would help me 
follow him. 

"For instance, let's say you find a certain kind of ripple marks preserved from the ancient past 
in sedimentary strata. And let's say that in the present day you see the same sort of ripple marks 
being formed in lake beds as the water evaporates. You can reasonably infer, then, using 
uniformitarian logic, that the ripple marks in the sedimentary strata were produced by a similar 

"So let's go back to DNA. Even the very simplest cell we study today, or find evidence of in 
the fossil record, requires information that is stored in DNA or some other information-carrier. 

And we know from our experience that information is habitually associated with conscious 
activity. Using uniformitarian logic, we can reconstruct the cause of that ancient information in 
the first cell as being the product of intelligence." 

As my mind tracked his line of reasoning, everything seemed to click into place-except one 
thing. "However," I said, "there's a caveat." 

Meyer cocked an eyebrow. "Like what?" he asked. 

"All of that is true-unless you can find some better explanation." 

"Yes, of course," he said. "You have to rule out other causes of the same effect. Origin-of-life 
scientists have looked at other possibilities for decades and, frankly, they've come up dry." 

Before we went any further, though, I needed to satisfy myself that the other major possible 
scenarios fall short of the intelligent design theory. 


In 1871, Charles Darwin wrote a letter in which he speculated that life might have originated 
when "a protein compound was chemically formed ... in some warm little pond, with all sorts of 
ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc. present." 13 A few years ago a scientist 
summarized the basic theory this way: 

The first stage on the road to life is presumed to have been the build-up, by pure chemical 
synthetic processes occurring on the surface of the early Earth, of all the basic organic 
compounds necessary for the formation of a living cell. These are supposed to have 
accumulated in the primeval oceans, creating a nutrient broth, the so-called "prebiotic 
soup." In certain specialized environments these organic compounds were assembled into 
large macromolecules, proteins and nucleic acids. Eventually, over millions of years, 
combinations of these macromolecules occurred which were then endowed with the 
property of selfreproduction. Then driven by natural selection ever more efficient and 
complex self-reproducing molecular systems evolved until finally the first simple cell 
system emerged. 14 

"I hear scientists talk a lot about this prebiotic soup," I said. "How much evidence is there that 
it actually existed?" 

"That's a very interesting issue," he replied. "The answer is there isn't any evidence." 

That's highly significant, because most origin-of-life theories presuppose the existence of this 
ancient chemical ocean. "What do you mean, "there isn't any'?" 

"If this prebiotic soup had really existed," Meyer explained, "it would have been rich in 
amino acids. Therefore, there would have been a lot of nitrogen, because amino acids are 
nitrogenous. So when we examine the earliest sediments of the Earth, we should find large 
deposits of nitrogen-rich minerals." 

That seemed logical to me. "What have scientists found?" 

"Those deposits have never been located. In fact, Jim Brooks wrote in 1985 that "the nitrogen 
content of early organic matter is relatively low-just .015 percent.' He said in Origins of Life: 
"From this we can be reasonably certain that there never was any substantial amount of 
"primitive soup' on Earth when pre-Cambrian sediments were formed; if such a soup ever existed 
it was only for a brief period of time.'" 1 5 

This was an astounding conclusion! "Don't you find that surprising, since scientists routinely 
talk about the prebiotic soup as if it were a given?" I asked. 

"Yes, certainly it's surprising," he replied. "Denton commented on this in Evolution: A 

Theory in Crisis, when he said: v Considering the way the prebiotic soup is referred to in so many 
discussions of the origin of life as an already established reality, it comes as something of a 
shock to realize that there is absolutely no positive evidence for its existence.' 16 And even if we 
were to assume that the prebiotic soup did exist, there would have been significant problems with 

"What do you mean?" 

"Take Stanley Miller's origin-of-life experiment fifty years ago, when he tried to recreate the 
early Earth's atmosphere and spark it with electricity. He managed to create two or three of the 
protein-forming amino acids out of the twenty-two that exist." 

I interrupted to let Meyer know that biologist Jonathan Wells had already told me how 
Miller's experiment used an atmosphere that scientists now recognize was unrealistic, and that 
using the correct environment doesn't yield any biologically relevant amino acids. 

"That's right," Meyer continued. "What's also interesting, however, is that Miller's amino 
acids reacted very quickly with the other chemicals in the chamber, resulting in a brown sludge 
that's not lifefriendly at all. That's what I mean by cross-reactions-even if amino acids existed in 
the theoretical prebiotic soup, they would have readily reacted with other chemicals. This would 
have been another tremendous barrier to the formation of life. The way that origin-of-life 
scientists have dealt with this in their experiments has been to remove these other chemicals in 
the hope that further reactions could take the experiment in a life-friendly direction. 

"So instead of simulating a natural process, they interfered in order to get the outcome they 
wanted. And that, " Meyer concluded, "is intelligent design." 

Undoubtedly, obstacles to the formation of life on the primitive Earth would have been 
extremely formidable, even if the world were awash with an ocean of biological precursors. Still, 
is there any reasonable naturalistic route to life? Like a homicide detective rounding up the usual 
suspects, I decided to run down the three possible scenarios to see if any of them made sense. 


I began with an observation. "I know that the idea of life forming by random chance is out of 
vogue right now among scientists," I said 

Meyer agreed. "Virtually all origin-of-life experts have utterly rejected that approach," he said 
with a wave of his hand. 

"Even so, the idea is still very much alive at the popular level," I pointed out. "For many 
college students who speculate about these things, chance is still the hero. They think if you let 
amino acids randomly interact over millions of years, life is somehow going to emerge." 

"Well, yes, it's true that this scenario is still alive among people who don't know all the facts, 
but there's no merit to it," Meyer replied. 

"Imagine trying to generate even a simple book by throwing Scrabble letters onto the floor. Or 
imagine closing your eyes and picking Scrabble letters out of a bag. Are you going to produce 
Hamlet in anything like the time of the known universe? Even a simple protein molecule, or the 
gene to build that molecule, is so rich in information that the entire time since the Big Bang 
would not give you, as my colleague Bill Dembski likes to say, the "probabilistic resources' you 
would need to generate that molecule by chance." 

"Even," I asked, "if the first molecule had been much simpler than those today?" 

"There's a minimal complexity threshold," he replied. "There's a certain level of folding that a 
protein has to have, called tertiary structure, that is necessary for it to perform a function. You 

don't get tertiary structure in a protein unless you have at least seventy-five amino acids or so. 
That may be conservative. Now consider what you'd need for a protein molecule to form by 

"First, you need the right bonds between the amino acids. Second, amino acids come in right- 
handed and left-handed versions, and you've got to get only left-handed ones. Third, the amino 
acids must link up in a specified sequence, like letters in a sentence. 

"Run the odds of these things falling into place on their own and you find that the 
probabilities of forming a rather short functional protein at random would be one chance in a 
hundred thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. 
That's a ten with 125 zeroes after it! 

"And that would only be one protein molecule-a minimally complex cell would need between 
three hundred and five hundred protein molecules. Plus, all of this would have to be 
accomplished in a mere 100 million years, which is the approximate window of time between the 
Earth cooling and the first microfossils we've found. 

"To suggest chance against those odds is really to invoke a naturalistic miracle. It's a 
confession of ignorance. It's another way of saying, 

"We don't know.' And since the 1960s, scientists, to their credit, have been very reluctant to 
say that chance played any significant role in the origin of DNA or proteins-even though, as you 
say, it's still unfortunately a live option in popular thinking." 


Random chance might not account for the origin of life, but zoologist Richard Dawkins says 
that when natural selection acts on chance variations, then evolution is capable of scaling 
otherwise impossibly high peaks. In fact, that was the premise of his 1996 book Climbing Mount 

He suggested that a complex biological structure is like a sheer cliff that cannot be scaled in 
one big bound without intermediate stepping stones, as chance must do. People look at this 
towering peak and think evolutionary processes could never get them to the top. 

The backside of that same mountain, however, has a gradual slope that makes for much 
easier climbing. This represents the Darwinian idea that nature provides small chance variations 
and then natural selection chooses the ones that are most advantageous. Over long periods of 
time, little changes accumulate into major differences. So while the mountain looks impossible 
to climb from the cliff side, it's quite easy to scale via the smaller Darwinian steps of natural 
selection on the backside.' 

In light of that insight, I asked Meyer: "Can natural selection explain how evolution managed 
to scale the mountain of building the first living cell?" 

"Whether natural selection really works at the level of biological evolution is open to debate, 
but it most certainly does not work at the level of chemical evolution, which tries to explain the 
origin of the first life from simpler chemicals," Meyer replied. "As Theodosius Dobzhansky 
said, 'Prebiological natural selection is a contradiction in terms.'" 18 

"How so?" I asked. 

"Darwinists admit that natural selection requires a self- replicating organism to work," he 
explained. "Organisms reproduce, their offspring have variations, the ones that are better 
adapted to their environment survive better, and so those adaptations are preserved and passed 
on to the next generation. 

"However, to have reproduction, there has to be cell division. And that presupposes the 
existence of information-rich DNA and proteins. But that's the problem-those are the very things 
they're trying to explain! 

"In other words, you've got to have a self-replicating organism for Darwinian evolution to 
take place, but you can't have a self-replicating organism until you have the information 
necessary in DNA, which is what you're trying to explain in the first place. It's like the guy who 
falls into a deep hole and realizes lie needs a ladder to get out. So climbs out, goes home, gets a 
ladder, jumps back into the hole, and climbs out. It begs the question." 

I raised another possibility. "Maybe replication first began in a much simpler way and then 
natural selection was able to take over," I said. "For example, some small viruses use RNA as 
their genetic material. RNA molecules are simpler than DNA, and they can also store 
information and even replicate. What about the so-called V RNA first hypothesis' that says 
reproductive life originated in a realm that's much less complex than DNA?" 

"There's a mountain of problems with that," he said. "Just to cite a couple of them, the RNA 
molecule would need information to function, just as DNA would, and so we're right back to the 
same problem of where the information came from. Also, for a single strand of RNA to replicate, 
there must be an identical RNA molecule close by. To have a reasonable chance of having two 
identical RNA molecules of the right length would require a library of ten billion billion billion 
billion billion billion RNA molecules-and that effectively rules out any chance origin of a 
primitive replicating system.'" 

Although popular for a while, the RNA theory has generated its share of skeptics. 
Evolutionist Robert Shapiro, a chemistry professor at New York University, said the idea at this 
point "must be considered either a speculation or a matter of faith." 20 Origin-of-life researcher 
Graham Cairns-Smith said the "many interesting and detailed experiments in this area" have only 
served to show that the theory is "highly implausible." 21 As Jonathan Wells noted in my earlier 
interview with him, biochemist Gerald Joyce of the Scripps Research Center was even more 
blunt: "You have to build straw man upon straw man to get to the point where RNA is a viable 
first bio molecule." 22 

Jay Roth, former professor of cell and molecular biology at the University of Connecticut 
and an expert in nucleic acids, said whether the original template for the first living system was 
RNA or DNA, the same problem exists. "Even reduced to the barest essentials," he said, "this 
template must have been very complex indeed. For this template and this template alone, it 
appears it is reasonable at present to suggest the possibility of a creator. 23 


Meyer pointed out that by the early 1970s, most origin-of-life scientists had become 
disenchanted with the options of random chance and natural selection. As a result, some explored 
a third possibility: various self-organizational theories for the origin of information-bearing 

For example, scientists theorized that chemical attractions may have caused DNA's four- 
letter alphabet to self-assemble or that the natural affinities between amino acids prompted them 
to link together by themselves to create protein. When I broached these possibilities, Meyer's 
response was to bring up a name I had already encountered during my investigation. 

"One of the first advocates of this approach was Dean Kenyon, who coauthored the textbook 
Biochemical Predestination," Meyer said. "The title tells it all. The idea was that the 
development of life was inevitable because the amino acids in proteins and the bases, or letters, 

in the DNA alphabet had self-ordering capacities that accounted for the origin of the information 
in these molecules." 

I already knew that Kenyon had repudiated the conclusions of his own book, declaring that 
"we have not the slightest chance of a chemical evolutionary origin for even the simplest of 
cells" and that intelligent design "made a great deal of sense, as it very closely matched the 
multiple discoveries in molecular biology." 24 Still, I wanted to consider the evidence for myself. 

"How did this chemical attraction supposedly work?" I asked. 

"We'll use proteins as an example," he said. "Remember, proteins are composed of a long 
line of amino acids. The hope was that there would be some forces of attraction between the 
amino acids that would cause them to line up the way they do and then fold so that the protein 
can perform the functions that keep a cell alive." 

I interrupted. "You have to admit that there are examples in nature where chemical 
attractions do result in a kind of self-ordering." 

"That's right," Meyer said. "Salt crystals are a good illustration. Chemical forces of attraction 
cause sodium ions, Na+, to bond with chloride ions, C1-, in order to form highly ordered patterns 
within a crystal of salt. You get a nice sequence of Na and CI repeating over and over again. So, 
yes, there are lots of cases in chemistry where bonding affinities of different elements will 
explain the origin of their molecular structure. Kenyon and others hoped this would be the case 
for proteins and DNA." 

"What turned out to be the problem?" I asked. 

"As scientists did experiments, they found that amino acids didn't demonstrate these bonding 
affinities," Meyer replied. 

"None at all?" 

"There were some very, very slight affinities, but they don't correlate to any of the known 
patterns of sequencing that we find in functional proteins. Obviously, that's a major problem-but 
there was an even bigger theoretical difficulty. Information theorist Hubert Yockey and chemist 
Michael Polanyi raised a deeper issue: v What would happen if we could explain the sequencing 
in DNA and proteins as a result of self-organization properties? Wouldn't we end up with 
something like a crystal of salt, where there's merely a repetitive sequence?'" 2 

When I asked Meyer to elaborate, he said: "Consider the genetic information in DNA, which 
is spelled out by the chemical letters A, C, G, and T. Imagine every time you had an A, it would 
automatically attract a G. You'd just have a repetitive sequence: A-G-A-G-A-G-AG. Would that 
give you a gene that could produce a protein? Absolutely not. Self-organization wouldn't yield a 
genetic message, only a repetitive mantra. 

"To convey information, you need irregularity in sequencing. Open any book; you won't see 
the word v the' repeating over and over and over. Instead, you have an irregular sequencing of 
letters. They convey information because they conform to a certain known independent pattern- 
that is, the rules of vocabulary and grammar. That's what enables us to communicate-and that's 
what needs to be explained in DNA. The four letters of its alphabet are also highly irregular 
while at the same time conforming to a functional requirement-that is, the correct arrangement of 
amino acids to create a working protein. 

"Here's an example. If you go north of here into Victoria Harbor in British Columbia, you'll 
see a pattern on a hillside. As the ferry approaches, you'll realize it's a message: red and yellow 
flowers spell out WELCOME TO VICTORIA. That's an example of an informational sequence. 

"Notice you don't have mere repetition-a W followed by an E, followed by another W and 
another E, and so on. Instead, there's an irregular combination of letters that conform to an 

independent pattern or specific set of functional requirements-English vocabulary and grammar. 
So we immediately recognize this as informational. Whenever we encounter these two elements- 
irregularity that's specified by a set of functional requirements, which is what we call 'specified 
complexity'-we recognize this as information. And this kind of information is invariably the 
result of mind-not chance, not natural selection, and not self-organizational processes." 

"And this is the kind of information we find in DNA?" I asked. 

"That's correct. If all you had were repeating characters in DNA, the assembly instructions 
would merely tell amino acids to assemble in the same way over and over again. You wouldn't 
be able to build all the many different kinds of protein molecules you need for a living cell to 
function. It would be like handing a person an instruction book for how to build an automobile, 
but all the book said was 'the-the-the-the-the-the.' You couldn't hope to convey all the necessary 
information with that one- word vocabulary. 

"Whereas information requires variability, irregularity, and unpredictability-which is what 
information theorists call complexityself-organization gives you repetitive, redundant structure, 
which is known as simple order. And complexity and order are categorical opposites. 

"Chemical evolutionary theorists are not going to escape this. The laws of nature, by 
definition, describe regular, repetitive patterns. For that reason one cannot invoke self-organizing 
processes to explain the origin of information, because informational sequences are irregular and 
complex. They exhibit the v specified complexity' I talked about. Future discoveries aren't going 
to change this principle." 

To me, this absolutely doomed the idea of chemical affinities accounting for the information 
in DNA. But Meyer wasn't through. There was yet another devastating problem with this theory. 

"If you study DNA," he continued, "you will find that its structure depends on certain bonds 
that are caused by chemical attractions. For instance, there are hydrogen bonds and bonds 
between the sugar and phosphate molecules that form the two twisting backbones of the DNA 

"However," he stressed, "there's one place where there are no chemical bonds, and that's 
between the nucleotide bases, which are the chemical letters in the DNA's assembly instructions. 
In other words, the letters that spell out the text in the DNA message do not interact chemically 
with each other in any significant way. Also, they're totally interchangeable. Each base can 
attach with equal facility at any site along the DNA backbone." 

Sensing the need for an illustration, Meyer stood and reached over to the desk to grab another 
child's toy-a metal chalkboard with several magnetic letters sticking to it. Sitting back down, he 
put the chalkboard on his lap and maneuvered the letters until they spelled the word 

"My kids were young when I was first studying this, so I came up with this example," he 
said. "We know that there are magnetic affinities here; that's why the magnetic letters stick to the 
metal chalkboard." To demonstrate, he picked up the letter R and let the magnetism pull it back 
to the board. 

"Notice, however, that the magnetic force is the same for each one of the letters, and so 
they're effectively interchangeable. You can use the letters to spell whatever you want. Now, in 
DNA, each individual base, or letter, is chemically bonded to the sugar-phosphate backbone of 
the molecule. That's how they're attached to the DNA's structure. But-and here's the key point- 
there is no attraction or bonding between the individual letters themselves. So there's nothing 
chemically that forces them into any particular sequence. The sequencing has to come from 
somewhere else. 

"When I show students the magnetic letters sticking to the metal chalkboard, I ask, "How did 
this word INFORMATION arise?' The answer, of course, is intelligence that comes from outside 
the system. Neither chemistry nor physics arranged the letters this way. It was my choice. And 
in DNA, neither chemistry nor physics arranges the letters into the assembly instructions for 
proteins. Clearly, the cause comes from outside the system." 

He paused while the implications sunk in. "And that cause," he stressed, "is intelligence. " 


Like a skillful boxer picking apart the defenses of his opponent, Meyer had adroitly 
dismantled the three categories of naturalistic explanations for the origin of life and information 
in DNA. We even discussed another option-the possibility that some external force might be 
responsible for creating organization, much in the same way gravity creates a vortex as water 
drains from a bathtub. Meyer quickly dismissed that notion, pointing out that such forces may 
produce order but they can't manufacture information. 26 

These dead-ends for naturalistic origin-of-life theories would not be a surprise to scientists in 
the field. When prominent origin-of-life researcher Leslie Orgel ran into another evolutionist at a 
Detroit conference several years ago, Orgel admitted the overwhelming difficulties he had 
encountered in trying to figure out how nucleic acids might have been naturally synthesized on 
the primitive Earth. Then Orgel candidly conceded, "There are equally overwhelming difficulties 
in the way of all theories." 27 

In short, no hypothesis has come close to explaining how information necessary to life's 
origin arose by naturalistic means. As Crick, a philosophical materialist, has conceded: "An 
honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some 
sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions 
which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going." 28 

For many researchers, the only recourse has been to continue to have faith that, as one 
scientist put it, some previously unknown "magic mineral" will be discovered to have had 
"exactly the right properties to cause the necessary reactions to occur to create a nucleic acid." 

"Maybe," I said to Meyer, "someday scientists will come up with another hypothesis." 

"Maybe they will," he replied. "You can't prove something like this with one-hundred- 
percent certainty, because you don't know what new evidence will show. That's why all 
scientists reason in a way that's provisional. Having said that, though, we do know that some 
possibilities can be excluded categorically. They're dead ends. For example, I think you can 
categorically exclude the idea that self-organizational processes can provide new information. 
More evidence will simply not change that." 

"Some skeptics would claim you're arguing from ignorance," I pointed out. "Scientists admit 
they don't know how life started, so you conclude there must have been an intelligent designer." 

"No, not at all. I'm not saying intelligent design makes sense simply because other theories 
fail," he insisted. "Instead, I'm making an inference to the best explanation, which is how 
scientists reason in historical matters. Based on the evidence, the scientist assesses each 
hypothesis on the basis of its ability to explain the evidence at hand. Typically, the key criterion 
is whether the explanation has "causal power,' which is the ability to produce the effect in 

"In this case, the effect in question is information. We've seen that neither chance, nor chance 
combined with natural selection, nor self-organizational processes have the causal power to 
produce information. But we do know of one entity that does have the required causal powers to 

produce information, and that's intelligence. We're not inferring to that entity on the basis of 
what we don't know, but on the basis of what we do know. That's not an argument from 

"Isn't there a fundamental weakness to your argument, though?" I asked. "You're arguing by 
analogy, comparing the information in DNA to information we find in language. Arguments 
based on analogies are notoriously weak. Advocates might emphasize the similarities between 
two things, but opponents will stress the differences." 

"I'll admit that there is a way of speaking about the information in DNA that goes too far and 
then becomes metaphorical," he began. "When people talk about DNA as being a message, that 
could imply there was a receiver who could "understand' the message. I'm not saying that DNA is 
this sort of semantic information. 

"However, I'm not arguing by analogy. The coding regions of DNA have exactly the same 
relevant properties as a computer code or language. As I said earlier, whenever you find a 
sequential arrangement that's complex and corresponds to an independent pattern or functional 
requirement, this kind of information is always the product of intelligence. Books, computer 
codes, and DNA all have these two properties. We know books and computer codes are designed 
by intelligence, and the presence of this type of information in DNA also implies an intelligent 

"Scientists in many fields recognize this connection between information and intelligence. 
When archaeologists discovered the Rosetta stone, they didn't think its inscriptions were the 
product of random chance or self-organizational processes. Obviously, the sequential 
arrangements of symbols was conveying information, and it was a reasonable assumption that 
intelligence created it. The same principle is true for DNA." 


Meyer had made a convincing case that intelligence-and intelligence alone-can explain the 
presence of precise information within genetic material. By itself, this was impressive evidence 
for the existence of a designer of life. 

As I looked down at my hand and tried to comprehend the vast quantities of complex and 
specific information inscribed in each cell, a slight smile formed at the corners of my mouth. The 
answer to the monumental question of whether there's a Creator, I mused, might very well be as 
close as my own fingertips. 

Meyer wasn't finished, however. As he mentioned in our previous interview, he is convinced 
that the so-called "Cambrian explosion"in which a dazzling array of new life forms suddenly 
appears fully formed in the fossil record, without any of the ancestors required by Darwinism- 
also is powerful evidence of a designer. The reason: this phenomenon would have required the 
sudden infusion of massive amounts of new genetic and other biological information that only 
could have come from an intelligent source. 

Among other places, Meyer makes that case in "The Cambrian Information Explosion: 
Evidence for Intelligent Design" in Debating Design, recently published by Cambridge 
University Press. Another extensive piece, "The Cambrian Explosion: Biology's Big Bang," 
appears in Darwinism, Design, and Public Education. Meyer coauthored this analysis with Paul 
Chien, chairman and professor in the biology department at the University of San Francisco, 
who worked with leading Chinese scientists on interpreting Cambrian fossils unique to China's 
Chengjiang region; Paul A. Nelson, a philosopher of biology who earned his doctorate at the 
University of Chicago; and paleontologist Marcus Ross. 

"The fossils of the Cambrian Explosion absolutely cannot be explained by Darwinian theory 
or even by the concept called 'punctuated equilibrium,' which was specifically formulated in an 
effort to explain away the embarrassing fossil record," Meyer said. "When you look at the issue 
from the perspective of biological information, the best explanation is that an intelligence was 
responsible for this otherwise inexplicable phenomenon." 

I leaned back in my chair and crossed my legs to get comfortable. "This sounds fascinating," I 
said. "Explain what you mean." 

Meyer clearly relished the opportunity to elaborate. "New developments in embryology and 
developmental biology are telling us that DNA, as important as it is, is not the whole show," 
Meyer began. 

"DNA provides some but not all of the information that's needed to build a new organism 
with a novel form and function. You see, DNA builds proteins, but proteins have to be 
assembled into larger structures. There are different kinds of cells, and those cells have to be 
arranged into tissues, and tissues have to be arranged into organs, and organs have to be arranged 
into overall body plans. 

"According to neo-Darwinism, new biological forms are created from mutations in DNA, 
with natural selection preserving and building on the favorable ones. But if DNA is only part of 
the story, then you can mutate it indefinitely and you'll never build a fundamentally new body 

"So when you encounter the Cambrian explosion, with its huge and sudden appearance of 
radically new body plans, you realize you need lots of new biological information. Some of it 
would be encoded for in DNA-although how that occurs is still an insurmountable problem for 
Darwinists. But on top of that, where does the new information come from that's not attributable 
to DNA? How does the hierarchical arrangement of cells, tissues, organs, and body plans 
develop? Darwinists don't have an answer. It's not even on their radar." 


Using radiometric techniques to date zircon crystals in Siberia, scientists have recently been 
able to increase their accuracy in pinpointing the time frame of the Cambrian explosion, whose 
beginning they have determined to be some 530 million years ago. 

Paleontologists now think that during a five-million-year (or even shorter) window of time, at 
least twenty and as many as thirty-five of the world's forty phyla, the highest category in the 
animal kingdom, sprang forth with unique body plans. In fact, some experts believe that "all 
living phyla may have originated by the end of the explosion." 30 

To put this incredible speed into perspective, if you were to compress all of the Earth's 
history into twenty-four hours, the Cambrian explosion would consume only about one minute. 31 
"The Cambrian explosion represents an incredible quantum leap in biological complexity," 
Meyer said. "Before then, life on Earth was pretty simple-one-celled bacteria, blue-green algae, 
and later some sponges and primitive worms or mollusks. Then without any ancestors in the 
fossil record, we have a stunning variety of complex creatures appear in the blink of an eye, 
geologically speaking. 

"For example the trilobite-with an articulated body, complicated nervous system, and 

compound eyes-suddenly shows up fully formed at the beginning of the explosion. It's amazing! 

And this is followed by stasis, which means the basic body plans remained distinct over the eons. 

"All of this totally contradicts Darwinism, which predicted the slow, gradual development in 

organisms over time. Darwin admitted the Cambrian explosion was "inexplicable' and v a valid 

argument' against his theory. He insisted 'natura non facit saltum-nature takes no leaps.' He 
thought he would be vindicated, however, as more fossils were discovered, but the picture has 
only gotten worse. 

"The big issue is where did the information come from to build all these new proteins, cells, 
and body plans? For instance, Cambrian animals would have needed complex proteins, such as 
lysyl oxidase. In animals today, lysyl oxidase molecules require four hundred amino acids. 
Where did the genetic information come from to build those complicated molecules? This would 
require highly complex, specified genetic information of the sort that neither random chance, nor 
natural selection, nor self-organization can produce." 

In my interview for Chapter Three, biologist Jonathan Wells had satisfactorily answered my 
objections to the Cambrian explosion, one of which was that transitional organisms may have 
been too small or soft to have left a legacy of fossils. Still, another possibility came to mind. 

"Maybe," I suggested, "some unexplained environmental phenomenon caused a sudden 
spate of mutations that accelerated the creation of new organisms." 

"That doesn't solve the problem," Meyer replied. "First, even assuming a generous mutation 
rate, the Cambrian explosion was far too short to have allowed for the kind of large-scale 
changes that the fossils reflect. 

"Second, only mutations in the earliest development of organisms have a realistic chance of 
producing large-scale macroevolutionary change. And scientists have found that mutations at 
this stage typically have disastrous effects. The embryo usually dies or is crippled." 

Geneticist John F. McDonald has called this "a great Darwinian paradox." 32 The kind of 
mutations that macroevolution needs-namely, large-scale, beneficial ones-don't occur, while the 
kind it doesn't need-large-scale mutations with harmful effects or smallscale mutations with 
limited impact-do occur, though infrequently. 

I brought up another idea that has been offered by some evolutionists. "Why couldn't 
mutations have occurred in an inactive part of the DNA, sort of a neutral area that wouldn't have 
had any immediate impact on the organism?" I asked. "Then, after a long period of time during 
which these mutations could accumulate, a new gene sequence could have suddenly kicked in 
and created an entirely new protein. Natural selection would then preserve any beneficial effects 
this would have on the organism." 

This theory wasn't new to Meyer. He responded by saying, "Keep in mind that these 
mutations would have had to occur by random chance, since natural selection can't preserve 
anything until it confers a positive benefit on the organism. The problem is that the odds of 
creating a novel functional protein without the help of natural selection would be vanishingly 
small. There are now a number of studies in molecular biology that establish this. So this so- 
called neutral theory' of evolution is another dead end. 

"There's really only one explanation that accounts for all the evidence. In any other field of 
endeavor, it would be obvious, but many scientists shy away from it in biology. The answer," he 
said, "is an intelligent designer." 


The puzzle of the Cambrian Explosion quickly falls into place once the possibility of a 
purposeful Creator is allowed as one of the explanatory options. Even one of the explosion's 
most vexing features-its so-called "top down" pattern of appearance-is efficiently explained by 
intelligent design. 

Said Meyer: "Neo-Darwinism predicts a "bottom up' pattern in which small differences in 

form between evolving organisms appear prior to large differences in form and body plan 
organization. For instance, you might imagine that pre-Cambrian sponges would have given rise 
to several different varieties. These varieties would have evolved over time to produce different 
species. As this process continued, wholly different creatures with completely new body plans 
would have emerged in the Cambrian era. 

"Instead, however, fossils from the Cambrian explosion show a radically different "top 
down' pattern. Major differences in form and body plans appear first, with no simpler transitions 
before them. Later, some minor variations arise within the framework of these separate and 
disparate body plans. 

"This has completely stumped neo-Darwinists. Others have tried to explain it away by 
proposing big leaps of evolutionary change-the so-called punctuated equilibrium idea-but even 
this can't account for the "top down' phenomenon. In fact, punctuated equilibrium predicts 
a'bottom up' pattern; it just asserts that the increments of evolutionary change would be larger. 
Yet if you postulate intelligent design, the "top down' pattern makes sense, because it's the same 
pattern we see in the history of human technological design." 

"Can you give me an example?" I asked. 

"Sure-think about cars or airplanes," Meyer replied. "They also manifest a "top down' pattern 
of appearance. In both cases, the major blueprint or plan appears fairly suddenly and remains 
essentially constant over history. 

"For instance, all cars have a basic organizational plan that includes a motor, a drive shaft, 
two axles, four wheels, and so forth. After the basic invention came about, then variations have 
occurred on the theme over time. That's an example of "top down' change. The original blueprint 
was the product of intelligence, and the continuity through the years is explained by an idea 
being passed from generation to generation of automotive engineers. 

"In a similar way, why couldn't the body plans of the Cambrian animals have originated as an 
idea in the mind of a designer? This would explain why the major differences in form appear 
first and then subsequent small-scale variations only come later. In fact, intelligence is the only 
cause we know that produces the kind of "top down' pattern we see in both the fossil record and 
in human technology, as illustrated by everything from cars and airplanes to guns and bicycles. 

"Intelligence also explains the origin of the layers of information necessary to create the new 
body plans in the Cambrian animals. As I mentioned earlier, to build a new animal you need 
DNA to create the proteins and additional information to arrange the proteins into higher level 
structures. We find the same layering or hierarchical form of organization in human 
technologies, like a computer's circuit board. Humans use intelligence to produce complex 
components, such as transistors and capacitors, as well as their specific arrangement and 
connection within an integrated circuit. 

"Once you allow intelligent design as an option, you can quickly see how it accounts for the 
key features of the Cambrian phenomenon. No other entity explains the sudden appearance of 
such complex new creatures. No other entity produces "top down' patterns. No other entity can 
create the complex and functionally specific information needed for new living forms. No other 
explanation suffices." 

"But intelligent design sounds like such an outmoded concept," I said. "William Paley 
famously compared biological systems to the workings of a watch more than two hundred years 
ago. That's old news. 

I had struck a nerve. Meyer uncrossed his legs, planted both feet on the floor, and spoke with 
conviction. "I think the opposite is true," he insisted. "We've learned a lot about biology since the 

Civil War. Evolutionists are still trying to apply Darwin's nineteenth-century thinking to a 
twenty-first century reality, and it's not working. Explanations from the era of the steamboat are 
no longer adequate to explain the biological world of the information age. 

"Darwinists say they're under some sort of epistemological obligation to continue trying, 
because to invoke design would be to give up on science. Well, I say it's time to redefine science. 
We should not be looking for only the best naturalistic explanation, but the best explanation, 
period. And intelligent design is the explanation that's most in conformity with how the world 


As our interview was drawing to a close, Meyer's reference to the twenty-first century 
prompted one last line of inquiry. "Fast forward ten or twenty years," I said. "What do you see?" 

"I think the information revolution taking place in biology is sounding the death knell for 
Darwinism and chemical evolutionary theories," he said as he removed his glasses and slipped 
them into his pocket. 

"The attempt to explain the origin of life solely from chemical constituents is effectively 
dead now. Naturalism cannot answer the fundamental problem of how to get from matter and 
energy to biological function without the infusion of information from an intelligence. 

"Information is not something derived from material properties; in a sense, it transcends 
matter and energy. Naturalistic theories that rely solely on matter and energy are not going to be 
able to account for information. Only intelligence can. I think that realization is going to 
progressively dawn on more and more people, especially younger scientists who have grown up 
in the age of information technology. 

"Today we buy information, we sell it, we regard it as a commodity, we value it, we send it 
down wires and bounce it off satellites-and we know it invariably comes from intelligent agents. 
So what do we make of the fact that there's information in life? What do we make of the fact 
that DNA stores far more information in a smaller space than the most advanced supercomputer 
on the planet? 

"Information is the hallmark of mind. And purely from the evidence of genetics and biology, 
we can infer the existence of a mind that's far greater than our own-a conscious, purposeful, 
rational, intelligent designer who's amazingly creative. There's no getting around it." 

The cacophony of street noise coming through the half-opened window was getting louder 
now that rush hour was approaching. Meyer's wife was graciously cooking a salmon dinner for 
us at their house, and it was time to get on the highway before it got clogged with traffic. As we 
ended our discussion, Meyer excused himself for a quick meeting in another office, giving me 
some time to reflect. 

Meyer's two rhetorical questions near the conclusion of our discussion effectively summed 
up the issue. The data at the core of life is not disorganized, it's not simply orderly like salt 
crystals, but it's complex and specific information that can accomplish a bewildering task-the 
building of biological machines that far outstrip human technological capabilities. 

What else can generate information but intelligence? What else can account for the rapid 
appearance of a staggering variety of fully formed, complex creatures that have absolutely no 
transitional intermediates in the fossil record? The conclusion was compelling: an intelligent 
entity has quite literally spelled out evidence of his existence through the four chemical letters in 
the genetic code. It's almost as if the Creator autographed every cell. 

I sighed and slumped back in my chair, a bit exhausted from my whirlwind of travel and 

interviews. The case for a Creator was accumulating at a remarkable pace, and I could sense I 
was approaching the conclusion of my quest. But I also knew there was at least one more expert 
I needed to consult. 

In the closing minutes of our conversation, Meyer had mentioned the word "mind" and 
referred to conscious activity. As beguiled as I was by DNA, I was equally intrigued by the 
human brain. Weighing just three pounds, it has ten thousand million nerve cells, each sending 
out enough fibers to create a thousand million million connections. That's equal to the number of 
leaves in a dense forest covering a million square miles. 34 

Yet how does all of that circuitry create the unique phenomenon of human consciousness? 
How does raw biological processing power enable me to reflect, or form beliefs, or make free 
choices? Is my consciousness only attributable to the physics and chemistry of my brain, or have 
I also been endowed with an immaterial mind and soul? And if there is persuasive evidence of a 
soul, what could this tell me about the existence of a Creator-and an afterlife? 

I pulled out a small notebook and scribbled myself a note to contact an expert on 
consciousness as soon as I returned to Los Angeles. I started to slip the pad into my shirt pocket, 
but instead I stopped and looked at the reminder I had just written. 

It was also a reminder of something else. Those few words-a fragment of a sentence- 
represented information that has its source in my intelligence. How intuitively obvious that a 
dense array of far more complicated biological assembly instructions must, too, have their origin 
in a mind. 


More Resources on This Topic 

Meyer, Stephen C. "The Cambrian Information Explosion: Evidence for Intelligent 
Design." In Debating Design, eds. Michael Ruse and William Dembski. Cambridge, 
England: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 

"DNA and the origin of Life: Information, Specification, and Explanation" and 
"The Cambrian Explosion: 

Biology's Big Bang." In Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, eds. John 
Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer. Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University 
Press, 2003. 
. "Evidence for Design in Physics and Biology." In Science and Evidence for Design in the 
Universe, eds. Michael J. Belie, William A. Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer. San Francisco: 
Ignatius Press, 1999. 

. "The Explanatory Power of Design: DNA and the Origin of Information." In Mere Creation, 
ed. William A. Dembski. Downer's Grove, 111.: InterVarsity, 1998, 113-47. 



Cogito ergo sum- "I think, therefore I am. " 

Rene Descartes 

Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write 
now, be able to reflect on what I am doing and why should you, even as you read 
now, be able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, 
deciding to refute me or deciding that I am just not worth the effort? No one, 
certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer to this.... The point is 
that there is no scientific answer. 

Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse 

The intelligence of machines will exceed human intelligence early in this century," predicted 
techno-prophet Ray Kurzweil, recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Technology and 
called "the ultimate thinking machine" by Forbes. "By intelligence, I include all of the diverse 
and subtle ways in which humans are intelligent-including musical and artistic aptitude, 
creativity, physically moving, and even responding to emotion. 

v By 2019, a thousand-dollar computer will match the processing power of the human brain.... 
By 2050, a thousand dollars of computing will equal the processing power of all human brains 
on Earth.... Will these future machines be capable of having spiritual experiences? They certainly 
will claim to. They will claim to be people, and to have the full range of emotional and spiritual 
experiences that people claim to have. " 

In envisioning the future, Kurzweil's book The Age of Spiritual Machines raises the 
controversial question of whether computers will not only become smarter than people but might 
also achieve consciousness-and thus become virtually indistinguishable from their biologically 
based counterparts. 

In a sense, Kurzweil's theories are a logical extension of Darwinian evolution. According to 
Darwinists, the physical world is all that there is. At some point, the human brain evolved, with 
its raw processing power increasing over the eons. When the brain reached a certain level of 

structure and complexity, people became "conscious"-that is, they suddenly developed 
subjectivity, feelings, hopes, a point of view, self-awareness, introspection, that "hidden voice of 
our private selves." 

As far back as 1871, Darwin advocate Thomas Huxley said: "Mind [or consciousness] is a 
function of matter, when that matter has attained a certain degree of organization." 3 Darwinists 
today agree that "conscious experience is a physical and not a supernatural phenomenon," as 
sociobiologist Edward 0. Wilson said." 

If consciousness really is the automatic byproduct of increasingly sophisticated brain power, 
then why couldn't super-smart robots become conscious when they achieve a bigger brain 
capacity than people? Once the basic Darwinian premise is accepted, then Kurzweil's futuristic 
scenario suddenly seems possible. 

"If you can get a computer to take on any structure you like, and if consciousness is 
generated by structure, then by definition that kind of structure is going to eventually give you 
consciousness," said David Chalmers, codirector of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the 
University of Arizona. 

Kurzweil's predictions, however, have been assailed by critics who say computer 
consciousness is absurd. "I cannot recall reading a book in which there is such a huge gulf 
between the spectacular claims advanced and the weakness of the arguments given in their 
support," scoffed John Searle, a professor of mind at the University of California at Berkeley. 6 
"You can expand the power all you want, hooking up as many computers as you think you need, 
and they still won't be conscious, because all they'll ever do is shuffle symbols." 7 

Said William Dembski of the Conceptual Foundations of Science at Baylor University: 
"Kurzweil is peddling science fiction and bad philosophy." 8 

As fascinating as this debate over futuristic computers has been, there still remains a much 
more important controversy over human consciousness. Amazingly, many scientists and 
philosophers are now concluding that the laws of physics and chemistry cannot explain the 
experience of consciousness in human beings. They are convinced that there is more than just the 
physical brain at work, but there also is a nonmaterial reality called the "soul," "mind," or "self" 
that accounts for our sentience. 

In fact, they cite its very existence as strong evidence against the purely naturalistic theory of 
Darwinian evolution and in favor of a Creator who imbued humankind with his image. 


One scientist whose opinions were reversed on the issue is Wilder Penfield, the renowned 
father of modern neurosurgery. He started out suspecting that consciousness somehow emanated 
from the neural activities in the brain, where synapses can fire an astounding ten million billion 
times a second. "Through my own scientific career, I, like other scientists, have struggled to 
prove that the brain accounts for the mind," he said. 9 

But through performing surgery on more than a thousand epileptic patients, he encountered 
concrete evidence that the brain and mind are actually distinct from each other, although they 
clearly interact. Explained one expert in the field: 

Penfield would stimulate electrically the proper motor cortex of conscious patients and 
challenge them to keep one hand from moving when the current was applied. The patient 
would seize this hand with the other hand and struggle to hold it still. Thus one hand 
under the control of the electrical current and the other hand under the control of the 
patient's mind fought against each other. Penfield risked the explanation that the patient 

had not only a physical brain that was stimulated to action but also a nonphysical reality 
that interacted with the brain." 

In other words, Penfield ended up agreeing with the Bible's assertion that human beings are 
both body and spirit. "To expect the highest brain mechanism or any set of reflexes, however 
complicated, to carry out what the mind does, and thus perform all the functions of the mind, is 
quite absurd," he said. "What a thrill it is, then, to discover that the scientist, too, can legitimately 
believe in the existence of the spirit." 

Similarly, Oxford University professor of physiology Sir Charles Sherrington, a Nobel Prize 
winner described as "a genius who laid the foundations of our knowledge of the functioning of 
the brain and spinal cord," 11 declared five days before his death: "For me now, the only reality is 
the human soul." 14 

As for his one-time student John C. Eccles, himself an eminent neurophysiologist and Nobel 
laureate, his ultimate conclusion is the same. "I am constrained," he said, "to believe that there is 
what we might call a supernatural origin of my unique self-conscious mind or my unique 
selfhood or soul.'" 

But is it really rational in the twenty-first century to believe in John Calvin's sixteenth- 
century claim that "the endowments we possess cannot possibly he from ourselves," but that they 
must have a divine source? 1 6 Is the Bible's insistence that people consist of both body and spirit-a 
belief called "dualism"-a defensible assertion? 17 Or is the human brain simply, in the famous 
words of MIT's Marvin Minsky, "a computer made of meat," with conscious thought as its 
wholly mechanical output? 

Consciousness, declared Searle, is "the single most important fact about our existence, 
except for life itself." 18 It was clear to me that the answer to the mystery of our mind would 
either be a powerful confirmation of Darwinian naturalism or a persuasive affirmation of a far 
greater mind in whose likeness we were created. 


It was a news dispatch from the front lines of the scientific investigation of human 
consciousness. Published by the journal Resuscitation and presented to scientists at the 
California Institute of Technology in 2001, the year- long British study provided evidence that 
consciousness continues after a person's brain has stopped functioning and he or she has been 
declared clinically dead. 19 It was dramatic new evidence that the brain and mind are not the 
same, but they're distinct entities. 

"The research," said Reuters journalist Sarah Tippit, "resurrects the debate over whether 
there is life after death and whether there is such a thing as the human soul." 20 

In their journal article, physician Sam Parnia and Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist at the 
Institute of Psychiatry in London, describe their study of sixty-three heart attack victims who 
were declared clinically dead but were later revived and interviewed. About ten percent reported 
having well-structured, lucid thought processes, with memory formation and reasoning, during 
the time that their brains were not functioning. The effects of oxygen starvation or drugs- 
objections commonly offered by skeptics-were ruled out as factors. Later, the researchers found 
numerous cases that were similar. 2 ' 

While large-scale studies are still needed, the once- skeptical Parnia said the scientific 
findings so far "would support the view that mind, "consciousness,' or the v soul' is a separate 
entity from the brain. 2 " 

He speculated that the brain might serve as a mechanism to manifest the mind, much in the 
same way a television set manifests pictures and sounds from waves in the air. If an injury to the 
brain causes a person to lose some aspects of his mind or personality, this doesn't necessarily 
prove that the brain was the source of the mind. "All it shows is that the apparatus is damaged," 
he said. 

Active research is continuing in this area and into other aspects of human consciousness. 24 
Meanwhile, the scientists who are committed to finding a purely physical answer-appropriately 
called "physicalists"-are candid in admitting that they currently have no explanation for how the 
brain might spawn consciousness. 

Conceded Searle: "We don't have an adequate theory of how the brain causes conscious 
states, and we don't have an adequate theory of how consciousness fits into the universe." 2 ' 

Still, Searle and many others find refuge in their unshakable faith that science will eventually 
discover a completely naturalistic explanation. Given Darwinism as a non-negotiable starting 
point, there's really no other choice. 

"I am firmly in the confident camp-a substantial explanation for the mind's emergence from 
the brain will be produced and perhaps soon," predicted professor of neurology Antonio R. 
Damasio. "The giddy feeling, however, is tempered by the acknowledgment of some sobering 
difficulties." 26 

Eccles calls this kind of attitude "promissory materialism ... extravagant and unfulfillable." 27 
Instead, many researchers are following Eccles's example by pursuing the evidence of science 
and the logic of philosophy wherever they lead, even if they point toward dualism. Said 
anthropologist Marilyn Schlitz: 

I would take the position of a radical empiricist, in that I am driven by data, not theory. 
And the data I see tell me that there are ways in which people's experience refutes the 
physicalist position that the mind is the brain and nothing more. There are solid, concrete 
data that suggest that our consciousness, our mind, may surpass the boundaries of the 
brain. 28 

As for the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments consistently teach that humans are "a 
hyphenate creature, a spirit/body dichotomy," said anthropologist Arthur C. Custance. Then, 
quite significantly, he added: "To this extent there is no quarrel between theology and the 
findings of recent research." 20 Custance continued: 

[The Bible] makes it very clear that when the soul or spirit leaves the body, the body is 
dead and that if the spirit is somehow returned to the body, the whole person comes back 
to life. 30 This duality is repeated in hundreds of places in the Bible 31 .... Indeed the 
formation of Adam as the first human being is expressly stated as the result of the 
animation of a body by a spirit, constituting it as a living soul. 32 

Do Christianity and contemporary research really support each other, while at the same time 
contradicting the Darwinian claim that the brain is solely responsible for consciousness? As I 
went looking for answers, I didn't have to travel far from my home in Southern California. It was 
just a short drive to the house of a prominent professor trained in science, philosophy, and 
theology, who has pondered and written about these topics for years. 


When I pulled up to J. P. Moreland's house on a cool and foggy morning, he was outside 

with a cup of coffee in his hand, having just walked home from a chat with some neighbors. His 
graying hair was close-cropped, his mustache neatly trimmed, and he was looking natty in a red 
tie, blue shirt, and dark slacks. 

"Good to see you again," he said as we shook hands. "Come on in." We walked into his 
living room, where he settled into a floral patterned chair and I eased into an adjacent couch. The 
setting was familiar to me, since I had previously interviewed him on other challenging topics for 
The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith. Both times I found him to have an uncanny ability 
to discuss abstract issues and technical matters in understandable but accurate language. That's 
unusual for a scientist, uncommon for a theologian, and downright rare for a philosopher! 

Moreland's science training came at the University of Missouri, where he received a degree 
in chemistry. He was subsequently awarded the top fellowship for a doctorate in nuclear 
chemistry at the University of Colorado but declined the honor to pursue a different career path. 
He then earned a master's degree in theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and a doctorate in 
philosophy at the University of Southern California. 

Moreland developed an early interest in issues relating to human consciousness, returning to 
that theme time after time in his various books. He has written, edited, or coauthored Christianity 
and the Nature of Science, Body and Soul, The Life and Death Debate, Beyond Death, Does God 
Exist? Christian Perspectives on Being Human, The Creation Hypothesis, Scaling the Secular 
City, Love Your God with All Your Mind, Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, and other books. 

Also, he has authored more than fifty technical articles for Perspectives on Science and 
Christian Faith, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, American Philosophical 
Quarterly, Journal of Psychology and Theology, Metaphilosophy, and a host of other journals. 
Moreland's memberships include national scientific, philosophical, and theological societies. 
Currently, he's a professor in the highly respected philosophy program at the Talbot School of 
Theology, where he teaches on numerous topics, including philosophy of mind. 

As we began our interview, I thought it would be a good idea to get straight on some key 
definitions- something that's not always easy when discussing consciousness. 


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said it may be difficult to define 
pornography, "but I know it when I see it." 34 Similarly, consciousness can be a challenging 
concept to describe, even though our own conscious thoughts are quite tangible to ourselves. As 
J. R. Smythies of the University of Edinburgh put it: "The consciousness of other people may be 
for me an abstraction, but my own consciousness is for me a reality." 3 

"What is consciousness?" Moreland said, echoing the opening question that I had just posed 
to him. "Well, a simple definition is that consciousness is what you're aware of when you 
introspect. When you pay attention to what's going on inside of you, that's consciousness." 

He looked at me and apparently could see from my expression that I needed a fuller 
description. "Think of it like this," he continued. "Suppose you were having an operation on your 
leg, and suddenly you begin to be aware of people talking about you. Someone says, V I think he's 
recovering.' You start to feel an ache in your knee. You say to yourself, "Where am I? What's 
going on?' And you start to remember you were operated on. What you're doing is regaining con- 
sciousness. In short, consciousness consists of sensations, thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs, 
and free choices that make us alive and aware." 

"What if consciousness didn't exist in the world?" I asked. 

"I'll give you an example," Moreland replied. "Apples would still be red, but there would be 

no awareness of red or any sensations of red." 

"What about the soul?" I asked. "How would you define that?" 

"The soul is the ego, the V I,' or the self, and it contains our consciousness. It also animates 
our body. That's why when the soul leaves the body, the body becomes a corpse. The soul is 
immaterial and distinct from the body." 

"At least," I observed, "that's what the Bible teaches." 

"Yes, Christians have understood this for twenty centuries," he said. "For example, when 
Jesus was on the cross, he told the thief being crucified next to him that he would be with Jesus 
immediately after his death and before the final resurrection of his body. 36 Jesus described the 
body and soul as being separate entities when he said, v Do not be afraid of those who kill the 
body but cannot kill the soul.'" The apostle Paul says that to be absent from the body is to be 
present with the Lord." 38 

I was curious about whether belief in the soul is a universal phenomenon. "What about 
beyond Christianity?" I asked. "Is this concept present in other cultures as well?" 

"We know that dualism was taught by the ancient Greeks, although, unlike Christians, they 
believed the body and soul were alien toward each other," he explained. "In contemporary terms, 
I'd agree with physicalist Jaegwon Kim, who acknowledged that v something like this dualism of 
personhood, I believe, is common lore shared across most cultures and religious traditions.'" 39 

Still, there are those who deny dualism and instead believe we are solely physical beings 
who are, as geneticist Francis Crick said, "no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve 
cells and their associated molecules." 40 To explore this issue, I decided to take an unusual 
approach in my interview with Moreland by asking him to imagine-for just a few minutes-that 
these physicalists are right. 


"Let's face it," I said, "some people flatly deny that we have an immaterial soul. John Searle 
said, v In my worldview, consciousness is caused by brain processes.' 41 In other words, they 
believe consciousness is purely a product of biology. As brain scientist Barry Beyerstein said, 
just as the kidneys produce urine, the brain produces consciousness." 42 

Moreland was listening carefully as I spoke, his head slightly cocked. I continued by saying, 
"Do me a favor, J. P.-assume for a moment that the physicalists are right. What are the logical 
implications if physicalism is true?" 

His eyes widened. "Oh, there would be several key ones," he replied. 

"Give me three," I said. 

Moreland was more than willing. "First, if physicalism is true, then consciousness doesn't 
really exist, because there would be no such thing as conscious states that must be described 
from a first-person point of view," he said. 

"You see, if everything were matter, then you could capture the entire universe on a graph- 
you could locate each star, the moon, every mountain, Lee Strobel's brain, Lee Strobel's kidneys, 
and so forth. That's because if everything is physical, it could be described entirely from a third- 
person point of view. And yet we know that we have firstperson, subjective points of view-so 
physicalism can't be true." 

Clearly, Moreland was warming up to this exercise. "The second implication," he continued, 
"is that there would be no free will. That's because matter is completely governed by the laws of 
nature. Take any physical object," he said as he glanced out the window, where the fog was 
breaking up. "For instance, a cloud," he said. "It's just a material object, and its movement is 

completely governed by the laws of air pressure, wind movement, and the like. So if I'm a 
material object, all of the things I do are fixed by my environment, my genetics, and so forth. 

"That would mean I'm not really free to make choices. Whatever's going to happen is already 
rigged by my makeup and environment. So how could you hold me responsible for my behavior 
if I wasn't free to choose how I would act? This is one of the reasons we lost the Vietnam War." 

I was following him until that last statement, which seemed oddly incongruous to me. "What 
has this got to do with Vietnam?" I asked. 

Moreland explained: "I heard a former advisor to the president say that B. F. Skinner's 
behaviorism influenced the Pentagon's strategy. Skinner believed that we're just physical objects, 
so you can condition people, just like you can condition a laboratory animal by applying electric 
shocks. Keep doing certain things over and over, and you can change behavior. So in Vietnam, 
we bombed, we came back, we bombed, we came back, we bombed, and so forth. We assumed 
that after we gave the North Vietnamese shock after shock, pretty soon we could manipulate 
their behavior. After all, they're just physical objects responding to stimuli. Eventually they had 
to give in." 

"But they didn't," I said. 

"That's right. It didn't work." 


"Because there was more to the Vietnamese than their physical brains responding to stimuli. 
They have souls, desires, feelings, and beliefs, and they could make free choices to suffer and to 
stand firm for their convictions despite our attempt to condition them by our bombing. 

"So if the materialists are right, kiss free will good-bye. In their view, we're just very 
complicated computers that behave according to the laws of nature and the programming we 
receive. But, Lee, obviously they're wrong-we do have free will. We all know that deep down 
inside. We're more than just a physical brain. 

"Third, if physicalism were true, there would be no disembodied intermediate state. 
According to Christianity, when we die, our souls leave our bodies and await the later 
resurrection of our bodies from the dead. We don't cease to exist when we die. Our souls are 
living on. 

"This happens in near-death experiences. People are clinically dead, but sometimes they 
have a vantage point from above, where they look down at the operating table that their body is 
on. Sometimes they gain information they couldn't have known if this were just an illusion 
happening in their brain. One woman died and she saw a tennis shoe that was on the roof of the 
hospital. How could she have known this? 

"If I am just my brain, then existing outside the body is utterly impossible. When people hear 
of near-death experiences, they don't think that if they looked up at the hospital ceiling, they'd 
see a pulsating brain with a couple of eyeballs dangling down, right? When people hear near- 
death stories, Lee, they are intuitively attributing to that person a soul that could leave the body. 
And clearly these stories make sense, even if we're not sure they're true. We've got to be more 
than our bodies or else these stories would be ludicrous to us." 

Moreland seemed to be sidestepping this issue a bit. "How about you personally?" I asked. 
"Do you think near-death experiences are true?" 

"We have to be careful with the data and not overstate things, but I do think they provide at 
least a minimalist case for consciousness surviving death," he said. "In fact, as far back as 1965, 
psychologist John Beloff wrote in The Humanist that the evidence of near-death experiences 
already indicates v a dualistic world where mind or spirit has an existence separate from the world 

of material things.' He conceded that this could "present a challenge to humanism as profound in 
its own way as that which Darwinian evolution did to Christianity a century ago.'" 43 

Moreland paused before adding one other comment. "Regardless of what anyone thinks 
about near-death experiences, we do have confirmation that Jesus was put to death and was later 
seen alive by credible eyewitnesses," he said. 44 "Not only does this provide powerful historical 
corroboration that it's possible to survive after the death of our physical body, but it also gives 
Jesus great credibility when he teaches that we have both a body and an immaterial spirit." 


At this point, having considered Moreland's critique of physicalism, I wanted to hear his 
affirmative case that consciousness and the soul are immaterial entities. "What positive evidence 
is there that consciousness and the self are not merely a physical process of the brain?" I asked. 

"We have experimental data, for one thing," he replied. "For example, neurosurgeon Wilder 
Penfield electrically stimulated the brains of epilepsy patients and found he could cause them to 
move their arms or legs, turn their heads or eyes, talk, or swallow. Invariably the patient would 
respond by saying, T didn't do that. You did.' According to Penfield, "the patient thinks of 
himself as having an existence separate from his body.' 

"No matter how much Penfield probed the cerebral cortex, he said, v There is no place ... 
where electrical stimulation will cause a patient to believe or to decide.' 47 That's because those 
functions originate in the conscious self, not the brain. 

"A lot of subsequent research has validated this. When Roger Sperry and his team studied 
the differences between the brain's right and left hemispheres, they discovered the mind has a 
causal power independent of the brain's activities. This led Sperry to conclude materialism was 
false.' 4 

"Another study showed a delay between the time an electric shock was applied to the skin, 
its reaching the cerebral cortex, and the self-conscious perception of it by the person. 49 This 
suggests the self is more than just a machine that reacts to stimuli as it receives them. In fact, the 
data from various research projects are so remarkable that Laurence C. Wood said, "many brain 
scientists have been compelled to postulate the existence of an immaterial mind, even though 
they may not embrace a belief in an after-life.'" 

"What about beyond the laboratory?" I asked. 

"There are valid philosophical arguments as well," he said. "For instance, I know that 
consciousness isn't a physical phenomenon because there are things that are true of my 
consciousness that aren't true of anything physical." 

"For instance . . . ," I said, prompting him further. 

"For example, some of my thoughts have the attribute of being true. Tragically, some of my 
thoughts have the attribute of being false-like the Chicago Bears are going to go to the Super 
Bowl," he said with a chuckle. "However, none of my brain states are true or false. No scientist 
can look at the state of my brain and say, v Oh, that particular brain state is true and that one's 
false.' So there's something true of my conscious states that are not true of any of my brain states, 
and consequently they can't be the same thing. 

"Nothing in my brain is about anything. You can't open up my head and say, "You see this 
electrical pattern in the left hemisphere of 

J. P. Moreland's brain? That's about the Bears.' Your brain states aren't about anything, but 
some of my mental states are. So they're different. 

"Furthermore, my consciousness is inner and private to me. By simply introspecting, I have a 

way of knowing about what's happening in my mind that is not available to you, my doctor, or a 
neuroscientist. A scientist could know more about what's happening in my brain than I do, but he 
couldn't know more about what's happening in my mind than I do. He has to ask me." 

When I asked Moreland for an illustration of this, he said. "Have you heard of Rapid Eye 

"Sure," I replied. 

"What does it indicate?" 


"Exactly. How do scientists know that when there is a certain eye movement that people are 
dreaming? They've had to wake people and ask them. Scientists could watch the eyes move and 
read a printout of what was physically happening in the brain, so they could correlate brain states 
with eye movements. But they didn't know what was happening in the mind. Why? Because 
that's inner and private. 

"So the scientist can know about the brain by studying it, but he can't know about the mind 
without asking the person to reveal it, because conscious states have the feature of being inner 
and private, but the brain's states don't." 


For centuries, the human soul has enchanted poets, intrigued theologians, challenged 
philosophers, and dumbfounded scientists. Mystics, like Teresa of Avila in the sixteenth century, 
have described it eloquently: "I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single 
diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are 
many mansions." 51 

Moreland was understandably more precise in analyzing the soul, though unfortunately less 
poetic. He had already clarified that the soul contains our consciousness. Still, he hadn't offered 
any reason to believe that the soul is an actual entity. It was time, I felt, to press him on this 
issue. "What makes you think that the soul is real?" I asked. 

Moreland replied by saying, "First, we're aware that we're different from our consciousness 
and our body. We know that we're beings who have consciousness and a body, but we're not 
merely the same thing as our conscious life or our physical life. 

"Let me give you an illustration of how we're not the same thing as our personality traits, our 
memories, and our consciousness. I had a student a few years ago whose sister had a terrible 
accident on her honeymoon. She was knocked unconscious and lost all of her memories and a 
good bit of her personality. She did not believe she had been married. As she began to recover, 
they showed her videos of the wedding to convince her that she had actually married her 
husband. She eventually got to the point where she believed it, and she got remarried to him. 

"Now, we all knew this was the same person all along. This was Jamie's sister. She was not a 
different person, though she was behaving differently. But she had totally different memories. 
She had lost her old memories and she didn't even have the same personality. What that proves is 
you can be the same person even if you lose old memories and gain new memories, or you lose 
some of your old personality traits and gain new personality traits. 

"Now, if I were just my consciousness, when my consciousness was different, I'd be a 
different person. But we know that I can be the same person even though my consciousness 
changes, so I can't be the same thing as my consciousness. I've got to be the "self,' or soul, that 
contains my consciousness. 

"Same with my body. I can't be the same thing as my body or brain. There was a story on 

television about an epileptic who underwent an operation in which surgeons removed fifty-three 
percent of her brain. When she woke up, nobody said, "We have forty-seven percent of a person 
here.' A person can't be divided into pieces. You are either a person or you're not. But your brain 
and your body can be divided. So that means I can't be the same thing as my body." 

Those illustrations helped, though I said, "The fact that the soul and consciousness are 
invisible makes it difficult to conceptualize them." 

"Sure, that's true," he replied. "My soul and my consciousness are invisible, though my body 
is visible. That's another distinction. In fact, I remember the time when my daughter was in the 
fifth grade and we were having family prayers. She said, "Dad, if I could see God, it would help 
me believe in him.' I said, "Well, honey, the problem isn't that you've never seen God. The 
problem is that you've never seen your mother.' And her mother was sitting right next to her! 

"My daughter said, "What do you mean, Dad?' I said, "Suppose without hurting your mom, 
we were able to take her apart cell by cell and peek inside each one of them. We would never 
come to a moment where we would say, 'Look-here's what Mommy's thinking about doing the 
rest of the day.' Or "Hey, this cell contains Mommy's feelings.' Or "So this is what Mom believes 
about pro football.' We couldn't find Mommy's thoughts, beliefs, desires, or her feelings. 

""Guess what else we would never find? We'd never find Mommy's ego or her self. We 
would never say, "Finally, in this particular brain cell, there's Mommy. There's her ego, or self.' 
That's because Mommy is a person, and persons are invisible. Mommy's ego and her conscious 
life are invisible. Now, she's small enough to have a body, while God is too big to have a body- 
so let's pray!' 

"The point is this, Lee: I am a. soul, and / have a body. We don't learn about people by 
studying their bodies. We learn about people by finding out how they feel, what they think, what 
they're passionate about, what their worldview is, and so forth. Staring at their body might tell us 
whether they like exercise, but that's not very helpful. That's why we want to get "inside' people 
to learn about them. 

"So my conclusion is that there's more to me than my conscious life and my body. In fact, I 
am a "self,' or an "I,' that cannot be seen or touched unless I manifest myself through my 
behavior or my talk. I have free will because I'm a "self,' or a soul, and I'm not just a brain." 


Moreland's denial that the brain produces consciousness made me think of the debate over 
whether future computers can become sentient. I decided to ask him to weigh in on the issue - 
although his ultimate conclusion was never in doubt. 

"If a machine can achieve equal or greater brain power as human beings, then some 
physicalists say the computer would become conscious," I said. "I assume you would disagree 
with that." 

Moreland chuckled. "One atheist said that when computers reach the point of imitating 
human behavior, only a racist would deny them full human rights. But of course that's absurd. 
Nobel- winner John Eccles said he's "appalled by the naivete' of those who foresee computer 
sentience. He said there's "no evidence whatsoever for the statement made that, at an adequate 
level of complexity, computers also would achieve self-consciousness. ' 

"Look, we have to remember that computers have artificial intelligence, not intelligence. 
And there's a huge difference. There's no "what it's like to be a computer.' A computer has no 
"insides,' no awareness, no first-person point of view, no insights into problems. A computer 
doesn't think, "You know what? I now see what this multiplication problem is really like.' A 

computer can engage in behavior if it's wired properly, but you've got to remember that 
consciousness is not the same as behavior. Consciousness is being alive; it's what causes 
behavior in really conscious beings. But what causes behavior in a computer is electric circuitry. 

"Let me illustrate my point. Suppose we had a computerized bat that we knew absolutely 
everything about from a physical point of view. We would have exhaustive knowledge of all its 
circuitry so that we could predict everything this bat would do when it was released into the 

"Contrast that with a real bat. Suppose we knew everything about the organs inside the bat- 
its blood system, nervous system, brain, heart, lungs. And suppose that we could predict 
everything this bat would do when released into the environment. There would still be one thing 
that we would have no idea about: what it's like to be a bat. What it's like to hear, to feel, to 
experience sound and color. That stuff involves the "insides' of the bat, its point of view. That's 
the difference between a conscious, sentient bat and a computerized bat. 

"So in general, computers might be able to imitate intelligence, but they won't ever have 
consciousness. We can't confuse behavior with what it's like to be alive, awake, and sentient. A 
future superintelligent computer might be programmed to say it's conscious or even behave as if 
it were conscious, but it can never truly become conscious, because consciousness is an 
immaterial entity apart from the brain." 

Moreland's choice of a bat for his illustration was an oblique reference to New York 
University philosopher Thomas Nagel's famous 1974 essay "What Is it Like to Be a Bat? 
Thinking about life from a bat's perspective prompted me to briefly pursue another line of 
inquiry on a tangential topic. "What about animals-do they have souls or consciousness?" I 

"Absolutely," came his quick answer. "In several places the Bible uses the word v soul' or 
"spirit' when discussing animals. Animals are not simply machines. They have consciousness and 
points of view. 

But the animal soul is much simpler than the human soul. For example, the human soul is 
capable of free moral action, but I think the animal soul is determined. Also, Augustine said 
animals have thoughts, but they don't think about their thinking. And while we have beliefs about 
our beliefs, animals don't. 

"You see, the human soul is vastly more complicated because it's made in the image of God. 
So we have self- reflection and self -thinking. And while the human soul survives the death of its 
body, I don't think the animal soul outlives its body. I could be wrong, but I think the animal soul 
ceases to exist at death." 

Bad news, it seems, for the bat. 


Moreland had made a cogent case for consciousness and the soul being independent of our 
brain and body. "How does this present a problem for Darwinists?" I asked. 

Moreland glanced down at some notes he had brought along. "As philosopher Geoffrey 
Medell said, v The emergence of consciousness, then, is a mystery, and one to which materialism 
fails to provide an answer.' Atheist Colin McGinn agrees. He asks, v How can mere matter 
originate consciousness? How did evolution convert the water of biological tissue into the wine 
of consciousness? Consciousness seems like a radical novelty in the universe, not prefigured by 
the aftereffects of the Big Bang. So how did it contrive to spring into being from what preceded 

Moreland looked squarely at me. "Here's the point: you can't get something from nothing," 
he declared. "It's as simple as that. If there were no God, then the history of the entire universe, 
up until the appearance of living creatures, would be a history of dead matter with no 
consciousness. You would not have any thoughts, beliefs, feelings, sensations, free actions, 
choices, or purposes. There would be simply one physical event after another physical event, 
behaving according to the laws of physics and chemistry." 

Moreland stopped for a moment to make sure this picture was vivid in my mind. Then he 
leaned forward and asked pointedly: "How, then, do you get something totally different- 
conscious, living, thinking, feeling, believing creatures-from materials that don't have that? 
That's getting something from nothing! And that's the main problem. 

"If you apply a physical process to physical matter, you're going to get a different 
arrangement of physical materials. For example, if you apply the physical process of heating to a 
bowl of water, you're going to get a new product- steam- which is just a more complicated form of 
water, but it's still physical. And if the history of the universe is just a story of physical processes 
being applied to physical materials, you'd end up with increasingly complicated arrangements of 
physical materials, but you're not going to get something that's completely nonphysical. That is a 
jump of a totally different kind. 

"At the end of the day, as Phillip Johnson put it, you either have v In the beginning were the 
particles,' or Tn the beginning was the Logos,' which means "divine mind.' If you start with 
particles, and the history of the universe is just a story about the rearrangement of particles, you 
may end up with a more complicated arrangement of particles, but you're still going to have 
particles. You're not going to have minds or consciousness. 

"However-and this is really important-if you begin with an infinite mind, then you can 
explain how finite minds could come into existence. That makes sense. What doesn't make 
sense-and which many atheistic evolutionists are conceding-is the idea of getting a mind to squirt 
into existence by starting with brute, dead, mindless matter. That's why some of them are trying 
to get rid of consciousness by saying it's not real and that we're just computers." 

He smiled after that last statement, then added: "However, that's a pretty difficult position to 
maintain while you're conscious!" 


"Still," I protested, "some scientists maintain that consciousness is just something that 
happens as a natural byproduct of our brain's complexity. They believe that once evolution gave 
us sufficient brain capacity, consciousness inexorably emerges as a biological process." 

"Let me mention four problems with that," Moreland insisted. "First, they are no longer 
treating matter as atheists and naturalists treat matter-namely, as brute stuff that can be 
completely described by the laws of chemistry and physics. Now they're attributing spooky, 
soulish, or mental potentials to matter." 

"What do you mean by "potentials'?" 

"They're saying that prior to this level of complexity, matter contained the potential for mind 
to emerge-and at the right moment, guess what happened? These potentials were activated and 
consciousness was sparked into existence." 

"What's wrong with that theory?" 

"That is no longer naturalism," he said. "That's panpsychism." 

That was a new term to me. "Pan what?" 

"Panpsychism, " he repeated. "It's the view that matter is not just inert physical stuff, but that 

it also contains proto-mental states in it. Suddenly, they've abandoned a strict scientific view of 
matter and adopted a view that's closer to theism than to atheism. Now they're saying that the 
world began not just with matter, but with stuff that's mental and physical at the same time. Yet 
they can't explain where these pre-emergent mental properties came from in the first place. And 
this also makes it hard for them to argue against the emergence of God." 

"The emergence of God?" I asked. "What do you mean by that?" 

"If a finite mind can emerge when matter reaches a certain level of complexity, why couldn't 
a far greater mind-God-emerge when millions of brain states reach a greater level of 
consciousness? You see, they want to stop the process where they want it to stop-at themselves- 
but you can't logically draw that line. How can they know that a very large God hasn't emerged 
from matter, because, after all, haven't a lot of people had religious experiences with God?" 

"That wouldn't be the God of Christianity," I pointed out. 

"Granted," he replied. "But this is still a problem for atheists. And there's a second problem: 
they would still be stuck with determinism, because if consciousness is just a function of the 
brain, then I'm my brain, and my brain functions according to the laws of chemistry and physics. 
To them, the mind is to the brain as smoke is to fire. Fire causes smoke, but smoke doesn't cause 
anything. It's just a byproduct. Thus, they're locked into determinism. 

"Third, if mind emerged from matter without the direction of a superior Intelligence, why 
should we trust anything from the mind as being rational or true, especially in the area of 
theoretical thinking? 

"Let me give you an analogy. Let's say you had a computer that was programmed by random 
forces or by nonrational laws without a mind being behind it. Would you trust a printout from 
that machine? Of course not. Well, same with the mind-and that's a problem for Darwinists. And 
by the way, you can't use evolution as an explanation for why the mind should be considered 
trustworthy, because theoretical thinking does not contribute to survival value." 

Moreland's comments reminded me of the famous quote from British evolutionist J. B. S. 
Haldane: "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of the atoms in my 
brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true ... and hence I have no reason for 
supposing my brain to be composed of atoms." 55 

"Here's the fourth problem," Moreland went on, "If my mind were just a function of the 
brain, there would be no unified self. Remember, brain function is spread throughout the brain, 
so if you cut the brain in half, like the girl who lost fifty-three percent of her brain, then some of 
that function is lost. Now you've got forty-seven percent of a person. Well, nobody believes that. 
We all know she's a unified self, because we all know her consciousness and soul are separate 
entities from her brain. 

"There's one other aspect of this, called the "binding problem.' When you look around the 
room, you see many things at the same time," he said, gesturing around at various objects in our 
field of vision. "You see a table, a couch, a wall, a painting in a frame. Every individual thing 
has light waves bouncing off of it and they're striking a different location in your eyeball and 
sparking electrical activity in a different region of the brain. That means there is no single part of 
the brain that is activated by all of these experiences. Consequently, if I were simply my physical 
brain, I would be a crowd of different parts, each having its own awareness of a different piece of 
my visual field. 

"But that's not what happens. I'm a unified T that has all of these experiences at the same 
time. There is something that binds all of these experiences and unifies them into the experience 
of oneselfme-even though there is no region of the brain that has all these activation sites. That's 

because my consciousness and my "self are separate entities from the brain." 

Moreland was on a roll, but I jumped in anyway. "What about recent brain studies that have 
shown activity in certain areas of the brain during meditation and prayer?" I asked. "Don't those 
demonstrate that there's a physical basis for these religious experiences, as opposed to an 
immaterial basis through the soul?" 

"No, it doesn't. All it shows is a physical correlation with religious experiences," he replied. 

"You'll have to explain that," I said. 

"Well, there's no question that when I'm praying, smelling a rose, or thinking about 
something, my brain still exists. It doesn't pop out of existence when I'm having a conscious life, 
including prayer. And I would be perfectly happy if scientists were to measure what was going 
on in my brain while I'm praying, feeling forgiveness, or even thinking about lunch. But 
remember: just because there is a correlation between two things, that doesn't mean they're the 
same thing. Just because there's a correlation between fire and smoke, this doesn't mean smoke is 
the same as fire. 

"Now, sometimes your brain states can cause your conscious states. For example, if you lose 
brain functioning due to Alzheimer's disease, or you get hit over the head, you lose some of your 
mental conscious life. But there's also evidence that this goes the other way as well. There are 
data showing that your conscious life can actually reconfigure your brain. 

"For example, scientists have done studies of the brains of people who worried a lot, and 
they found that this mental state of worry changed their brain chemistry. They've done studies of 
the brain patterns of little children who were not nurtured and loved, and their patterns are 
different than children who have warm experiences of love and nurture. So it's not just the brain 
that causes things to happen in our conscious life; conscious states can also cause things to 
happen to the brain. 

"Consequently, I wouldn't want to say there's a physical basis for religious experiences, even 
though they might be correlated. Sometimes it could be cause-and-effect from brain to mind, but 
it could also be cause-and-effect from mind to brain. How do the scientists know it isn't actually 
my prayer life that's causing something to happen in my brain, rather than the other way 
around?" 56 


As we talked about the human mind, mine was drifting back to my first interview with 
William Lane Craig, during which he brought up a scientific principle called Ockham's razor. As 
I listened to Moreland defend the concept of dualism, it dawned on me that Ockham's razor 
would argue in the opposite direction-toward the view that only the brain exists-because it says 
science prefers simpler explanations where possible. It was a challenge I decided to pose to 

"You're familiar with the scientific principle called Ockham's razor," I said to him. 

As soon as the question left my mouth, Moreland knew where I was headed. "Yes, it says 
that we shouldn't multiply entities beyond what's needed to explain something. And I assume 
your objection is that Ockham's razor would favor a simple alternative, such as the brain 
accounting for everything, rather than more complicated explanation like the two entities of 

"That's right," I said. "Surely this undercuts the case for dualism." 

He was ready with an answer. "No, it really doesn't. Actually, Ockham's razor favors 
dualism, and here's why," he said. "What's the intent of Ockham's razor? The thrust of this 

principle is that when you're trying to explain a phenomenon, you should only include the 
elements that are necessary to explain the phenomenon. And as I've demonstrated through 
scientific evidence and philosophical reasoning, dualism is necessary to explain the phenomenon 
of consciousness. Only dualism can account for all of the evidence-and, hence, it does not violate 
Ockham's razor." 

I wasn't ready to give up. "But maybe we just don't have all the evidence yet," I said. "Maybe 
your conclusions are premature. Physicalists are confident that the day will come when they'll be 
able to explain consciousness solely in physical terms." 

Moreland's reply was adamant: "There will never, ever be a scientific explanation for mind 
and consciousness." 

His forceful and unequivocal statement startled me. "Why not?" I asked. 

"Think about how scientists go about explaining things: they show that something had to 
happen due to antecedent conditions. For example, when scientists explain why gases behave the 
way they do, they show that if you hold the volume constant and increase the temperature, the 
pressure has to increase. That is, when we heat a pressure cooker, the pressure goes up. 

"When scientists explain that, they don't just correlate temperature and pressure. They don't 
just say that temperature and pressure tend to go together. They try to show why the pressure has 
got to increase, why it couldn't have done anything other than that, given the temperature 
increase. Scientists want to show why something has to happen given the cause; they're not 
content simply to correlate things and leave it at that. 

"And this will never work with consciousness, because the relationship between the mind 
and the brain is contingent, or dependent. In other words, the mind is not something that had to 
happen. One atheist asked, "How could a series of physical events, little particles jostling against 
one another, electric currents rushing to and fro, blossom into conscious experience? Why 
shouldn't pain and itches be switched around? Why should any experience emerge when these 
neurons fire in the brain?' He's pointing out that there's no necessary connection between 
conscious states and the brain. 

"So in the future scientists will be able to develop more correlations between conscious 
states and states of the brain, and that's wonderful. But my point is this: correlation is not 
explanation. To explain something scientifically, you've got to show why the phenomenon had to 
happen given the causes. And scientists cannot explain the v why' behind consciousness, because 
there's no necessary connection between the brain and consciousness. It didn't have to happen 
this way." 


It's no wonder that Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame University, a dualist who is frequently 
called the greatest living American philosopher, surveyed the current body/mind debate and 
concluded: "Things don't look hopeful for Darwinian naturalists."" 

Faced with data and logic that support dualism, and unable to offer a plausible theory for 
how consciousness could have erupted from mindless matter, atheists are pinning their hopes on 
some asyet-undetermined scientific discovery to justify their faith in physicalism. And some 
aren't even so sure about that-physicist and atheist Steven Weinberg said scientists may have to 
"bypass the problem of human consciousness" altogether, because "it may just be too hard for 
us.'"s In other words, it's failing to give them the answers they want. 

As for Moreland, he agrees with Plantinga's bleak assessment for atheists. "Darwinian 
evolution will never be able to explain the origin of consciousness," he told me. "Perhaps 

Darwinists can explain how consciousness was shaped in a certain way over time, because the 
behavior that consciousness caused had survival value. But it can't explain the origin of 
consciousness, because it can't explain how you can get something from nothing. 

"In Darwin's notebooks, he said if there was anything his theory can't explain, then there 
would have to be another explanation-a creationist explanation. Well, he can't explain the origin 
of mind. He tried to reduce consciousness down to the brain, because he could tell a story about 
how the brain evolved. But as we've discussed, Lee, consciousness cannot be reduced merely to 
the physical brain. This means the atheist creation story is inadequate and false. And yet there is 
an alternative explanation that makes sense of all the evidence: our consciousness came from a 
greater Consciousness. 

"You see, the Christian worldview begins with thought and feeling and belief and desire and 
choice. That is, God is conscious. God has thoughts. He has beliefs, he has desires, he has 
awareness, he's alive, he acts with purpose. We start there. And because we start with the mind 
of God, we don't have a problem with explaining the origin of our mind." 

I asked, "What, then, can we deduce about God from this?" 

"That he's rational, that he's intelligent, that he's creative, that he's sentient. And that he's 
invisible, because that's the way conscious beings are. I have no inclination to doubt that this 
very room is teeming with the presence of God, just because I can't see or touch or smell or hear 
him. As I explained earlier, I can't even see my own wife! I can't touch, see, smell, or hear the 
real her. 

"One more thing. The existence of my soul gives me a new way to understand how God can 
be everywhere. That's because my soul occupies my body without being located in any one part 
of it. There's no place in my body where you can say, v Here I am.' My soul is not in the left part 
of my brain, it's not in my nose, it's not in my lungs. My soul is fully present everywhere 
throughout my body. That's why if I lose part of my body, I don't lose part of my soul. 

"In a similar way, God is fully present everywhere. He isn't located, say, right outside the 
planet Mars. God occupies space in the same way the soul occupies the body. If space were 
somehow cut in half, God wouldn't lose half his being. So now I have a new model, based on my 
own self, for God's omnipresence. And shouldn't we expect this? If we were made in the image 
of God, wouldn't we expect there to be some parallels between us and God?" 

I asked, "Do you foresee more scientists coming to the conclusion that the soul, though 
immaterial, is very real?" 

"The answer is yes-if they are willing to open themselves up to nonscientific knowledge," he 
replied. "I believe in science; it's wonderful and gives us some very important information. But 
there are other ways of knowing things as well. Because, remember, most of the evidence for the 
reality of consciousness and the soul is from our own first-person awareness of ourselves and has 
nothing to do with the study of the brain. The study of the brain allows us to correlate the brain 
with conscious states, but it tells us nothing about what consciousness itself is." 

"But, J. P., aren't you asking scientists to do the unthinkable-to ignore scientific knowledge?" 

"No, not at all," he insisted. "I'm only asking that they become willing to listen to all the 
evidence and see where it leads-which is what the quest for truth should be about." 

"And if they do that?" 

"They will come to believe in the reality of the soul and the immaterial nature of 
consciousness. And this could open them up personally to something even more important-to a 
much larger Mind and a much bigger Consciousness, who in the beginning was the Logos, and 

who made us in his image." 


A ringing telephone ended our conversation, although I was wrapping up the interview 
anyway. A colleague was calling to remind Moreland of a faculty meeting. I thanked Moreland 
for his time and insights, gathered my things, and strolled out to my car. I was just about to start 
the engine, but instead I let go of the key, leaned back in my seat, and took a few moments (as 
Moreland would say) to introspect. 

Interestingly, this very act of introspection intuitively affirmed to me what Moreland's facts 
and logic had already established-my ability to ponder, to reason, to speculate, to imagine, and to 
feel the emotional brunt of the interview showed that my mind surely could not have been the 
evolutionary byproduct of brute, mindless matter. 

"Selfhood ... is not explicable in material or physical terms," said philosopher Stuart C. 
Hackett. "The essential spiritual selfhood of man has its only adequate ground in the 
transcendent spiritual Selfhood of God as Absolute Mind." 

In other words, I am more than just the sum total of a physical brain and body parts. Rather, I 
am a soul, and I have a body. I thinktherefore, I am. Or as Hackett said: "With modest apology to 
Descartes: Cogito, ergo Deus est! I think, therefore God is." 

I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with philosopher Robert Augros and physicist 
George Stanciu, who explored the depths of the mind/body controversy and concluded that 
"physics, neuroscience, and humanistic psychology all converge on the same principle: mind is 
not reducible to matter." They added: "The vain expectation that matter might someday account 
for mind ... is like the alchemist's dream of producing gold from lead. 61 

I leaned forward and started the car. After months of investigating scientific evidence for 
God-traveling a total of 26,884 miles, which is the equivalent of making one lap around the Earth 
at the equator I had finally reached a critical mass of information. It was time to synthesize and 
digest what I had learned-and ultimately to come to a conclusion that would have vast and life- 
changing implications. 


More Resources on This Topic 

Cooper, John W. Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1989. 

Habermas, Gary and J. P. Moreland. Beyond Death. Wheaton, 111.: Crossway, 1998. 

Moreland, J. P. "God and the Argument from Mind." In Scaling the Secular City. Grand 
Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1987. 

What Is the Soul? Norcross, Ga.: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, 2002. 

. and Scott B. Rae. Body and Soul. Downer's Grove, 111.: InterVarsity, 2000. 

Taliaferro, Charles. Consciousness and the Mind of God. Cam 
bridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 

Witham, Larry. "Mind and Brain." In By Design: Science and the Search for God. San 
Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003. 



The vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its 
Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the 
presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to 
comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science. 

Werner von Braun, the father of space science 

Faith does not imply a closed, but an open mind. Quite the opposite of blindness, faith 
appreciates the vast spiritual realities that materialists overlook by getting trapped in the 
purely physical. 

Sir John Templeton 

Standing boldly in front of the national media, his posture like a boxer ready to pounce, the 
cocky prosecutor shook his finger at five television cameras and taunted renowned defense 
attorney William F. Neal. 

"I defy Mr. Neal," he declared, "to stop that Pinto!" His words became a rally cry, challenging 
Neal to establish that a Ford Pinto containing three teenage girls had come to a halt on an Indiana 
highway before being struck from behind by a Chevy van. 

It was yet another moment of high drama in a ground-breaking criminal trial that had 
captivated the nation. In the first case of its kind in U.S. history, prosecutors blamed the girls' 
deaths on the car's manufacturer, charging Ford Motor Company with reckless homicide for 
allegedly designing a vehicle that was prone to explode in low- to moderate- speed rear crashes. 
If the Pinto had been safe, the prosecutors contended, the three teenagers would have walked 
away virtually unscathed from the relatively minor collision. But, they said, because the car's gas 
tank had been located in a vulnerable position, the car erupted in a fireball that consumed them 

A pivotal issue was the severity of the crash. Neal maintained that the Pinto had been 
stopped on the highway and the van was traveling at fifty miles an hour. "No subcompact could 
have withstood the assault of the van in this case," Neal told the jurors. 

The prosecutor, however, countered that the Pinto had been moving in the same direction as 
the van, which meant the force of the impact would have been much less. Indeed, a few 
eyewitnesses testified the car had been in motion, though their accounts varied and during cross- 

examination Neal sought to raise doubts about the vantage points from which they saw the 

Then the prosecutor presented his star witness: the shaggy-haired, twenty-one-year-old driver 
of the van, who had not been criminally charged for the crash and was cooperating with the 
prosecution. He testified that the Pinto had been moving at fifteen to twenty miles an hour when 
they collided. Neal scoffed, pointing out that the distracted driver had only seen the Pinto for 
one-sixth of a second before hitting it. But the driver, who had five previous traffic convictions 
in three years, stuck to his story. 

In the glare of the television cameras, the prosecutor was ebullient. Feeling confident in the 
thoroughness of his investigation and believing Neal could offer no contradictory testimony, he 
defiantly challenged Neal to make good on his promise that he would stop the Pinto. 

Surprisingly, however, the prosecutor's bravado was short-lived. A few days later, to the 
astonishment of the prosecution, Neal used both negative and positive evidence to accomplish 
what the prosecutor was convinced he could never do. 

First, Neal undermined the testimony of the van's driver. The physician who had treated him 
for minor injuries said the driver had admitted to him that the Pinto had been stopped. That was 
damaging enough for the prosecution. 

Even more devastating, Neal then presented two surprise witnesses that police had somehow 
overlooked during their supposedly exhaustive investigation. Both were hospital workers who 
testified that the driver of the Pinto told them independently before her death that she had been 
stopped on U.S. Highway 133 when the van struck her car. The prosecutor was stunned. In a 
flash, these two unforeseen witnesses changed the entire momentum of the trial. "Nobody knew 
anything about them," the prosecutor sputtered. "They came out of the blue." 

Outside the courtroom, Neal was ecstatic. "The prosecutor challenged us to stop that Pinto," 
he said, stifling a chuckle. "Well, now we've stopped it twice. " 

The once-confident prosecutor, now publicly embarrassed, found himself on the defensive as 
reporters pelted him with questions about why his investigation had failed to unearth these 
witnesses. Ultimately, after several judicial rulings further eroded the prosecutor's case, jurors 
voted to acquit the automaker. 

Neal's performance, which I documented in my book Reckless Homicide, was among the 
most masterful I had ever seen in my years as a legal affairs journalist.' His success was not the 
product of adroit legal maneuvering, clever arguments, or courtroom slight-of-hand. Plain and 
simple, it was old-fashioned, dogged detective work that uncovered the surprise witnesses. 
Defense investigators went beyond the obvious, posed questions that others weren't asking, out- 
hustled police investigators, and followed the clues wherever they led. 

Years later, I would understand exactly how the prosecutor felt that day. I was once full of 
confidence that Darwinism justified my atheism. I felt I had investigated the issue sufficiently, 
having studied biology, chemistry, geology, anthropology, and other sciences in school and 
having read books that reenforced my beliefs. No doubt about it-natural selection acting on 
random variation had put God out of a job. 

When Christians approached me about the evidence for their faith, I was as defiant as the 
combative prosecutor on the courthouse steps. The Origin of Species trumped the Bible. The 
critical thinking of scientists overpowered the wishful thinking of theists. To me, the case was 

But then, prompted by the positive changes in my wife after she became a follower of Jesus, 
I began to go beyond the obvious, to set aside my prejudices, to ask questions I had never posed 

before, and to pursue the clues of science and history wherever they led. Instead of letting 
naturalism limit my search, I opened myself to the full range of possibilities. And, frankly, I 
wasn't prepared for what would happen. 

Like the negative evidence that undermined the van's driver in the Pinto case, the facts of 
science systematically eroded the foundation of Darwinism until it could no longer support the 
weight of my atheistic conclusions. Suddenly, the intellectual basis for my skepticism was 

That was disconcerting enough. But then-like the surprise witnesses who suddenly shifted 
the momentum at the Indiana trial-my wide-ranging research was building an unexpected 
affirmative case for the existence of a Creator. 

Yes, I was stunned; yes, I felt like the wind was being knocked out of me; yes, it was 
unnerving to wrestle with the implications. But I had vowed to follow the facts regardless of the 
cost-even at the cost of my own smug self-sufficiency. 


I was reminded of the Pinto trial as I sat in my home office and glanced over at a shelf where 
my eye caught the book I had written on the case. As I started reminiscing about the 
unanticipated turnaround in that courtroom drama, my thoughts drifted to the emotions I felt on 
November 8, 1981. 

It was on that day, after nearly two years of intensive research, that I sat alone in my room 
and wrote down the key evidence I had discovered during my original investigation into the 
credibility of Christianity. Much of it concerned the facts regarding the life, teachings, miracles, 
death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, as I described in my book The Case for Christ, and 
the answers to the "Big Eight" objections to Christianity, as I recounted in The Case for Faith. 

But also very important at the time were the corroborating scientific facts. Even though there 
was less evidence than is readily available today, there was still plenty upon which to reach a 
verdict. I can remember analyzing the scientific research and coming to the startling conclusion 
that the data of the physical world point powerfully toward the existence of a Creator. 

What seemed impossible two years earlier now seemed not just possible, not just likely-but 
obvious. Like the Pinto prosecutor, I was dismayed and disoriented-and yet at the same time I 
felt confident and even strangely comforted by the conclusion. 

Now, more than two decades later, having spent over a year reevaluating and updating the 
case for a Creator by interviewing experts On the latest scientific discoveries, I sat at my desk 
once more and mentally reviewed the most current evidence I had encountered. 

I was amazed at how new findings in physics, astronomy, biochemistry, and other disciplines 
have added so much to the pool of scientific knowledge. As I considered the evidence afresh, I 
tried to honestly weigh which hypothesis-Darwinism or Design-best accounted for the most 
current data of science. 


To start with, I considered how the facts fit the hypothesis that all of life can be explained by 
the undirected, purely naturalistic processes of evolution. "Like all other scientific theories, 
Darwinian evolution must be continually compared with the evidence," said biologist Jonathan 
Wells. "If it does not fit the evidence, it must be reevaluated or abandoned-otherwise it is not 
science, but myth." 4 

Looking at the doctrine of Darwinism, which undergirded my atheism for so many years, it 

didn't take me long to conclude that it was simply too far-fetched to be credible. I realized that if 
I were to embrace Darwinism and its underlying premise of naturalism, I would have to believe 

• Nothing produces everything 

• Non-life produces life 

• Randomness produces fine-tuning 

• Chaos produces information 

• Unconsciousness produces consciousness 

• Non-reason produces reason 

Based on this, I was forced to conclude that Darwinism would require a blind leap of faith 
that I was not willing to make. Simply put, the central pillars of evolutionary theory quickly 
rotted away when exposed to scrutiny. 

For example, naturalistic processes have utterly failed to explain how non-living chemicals 
could somehow self-assemble into the first living cell. Not only are there no viable theories, but 
none are on the horizon. Biochemist Klaus Dose, one of the leading origin-of-life experts, 
conceded: "At present all discussions on principle theories and experiments in the field either 
end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance." 5 

Science writer Robert Roy Britt cast the problem more colorfully: "Have you ever had one of 
those dreams where you try to run from a monster and your legs go round and round but you 
don't get anywhere? The quest to understand the origin of life isn't much different." 

Stephen C. Meyer pointed out in my interview that there are insurmountable hurdles 
involving the origin of biological information that simply cannot be resolved by more research 
and effort. In other words, origin-of-life scientists are not going to wake up from their nightmare. 
To me, this constitutes the Achilles' heel of evolutionary theory. As biochemist Michael Denton 
observed, the idea that undirected processes could somehow turn dead chemicals into all the 
extraordinary complexity of living things is surely "no more nor less than the great cosmogenic 
myth" of our times.? 

In addition, the overall fossil record has stubbornly refused to confirm the grand claims of 
Darwinian transitions. Despite innumerable discoveries since Darwin's day, "the intermediates 
have remained as elusive as ever," said Denton. 8 Rather than harmonize into a consistent case for 
Darwin's theory, the fossils are a discordant cacophony that cannot reasonably account for the 
monumental leaps Darwinism must make, for example, between fish and amphibians or 
amphibians and reptiles. 

The most glaring deficiency of the fossil record is biology's Big Bang, the Cambrian 
explosion. The majority-or, according to some experts, all-of the world's forty phyla, the highest 
category in the animal kingdom, virtually sprang forth with unique body plans more than five 
hundred million years ago. The sudden appearance of these radically new life forms, devoid of 
prior transitions, has turned Darwin's Tree of Life on its head. 

Like the overconfident prosecutor in the Pinto case, Darwin predicted that new discoveries 
would explain away this quantum leap in biological complexity. In reality, they have only made 
matters worse. The excuse that the transitionary creatures were too soft or small to be fossilized 
withers under examination. Alternate theories, like Stephen Jay Gould's "punctuated 
equilibrium," dash themselves on the rocks of reason. Darwin's assessment is still accurate more 
than a century and a half later: the Cambrian explosion is "inexplicable" under his hypothesis. 
This remains, in my opinion, a fatal shortcoming. 

When I examined these and other deficiencies of Darwinism as objectively as I could, I 
became firmly convinced that evolution is a confirmed fact-as long as it's defined as the micro- 
evolutionary variations we see in the animal and plant world. Undeniably, a considerable amount 
of change and diversification has taken place over time. However, there is simply insufficient 
evidence from which to draw the radical conclusion that large-scale, macro-evolutionary 
transitions have occurred. 

As award-winning author Roger Lewin, a former editor with Science and New Scientist 
magazines, summarized a historic scientific conference on macroevolution: "The central question 
... was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the 
phenomenon of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the position of some people at 
the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No." 9 

In short, the amount of faith needed to maintain belief in the most sweeping and controversial 
claims of Darwinism far exceeded what I believed was reasonably warranted by the hard 
evidence of science. On top of that, naturalism has absolutely no credible explanation for how 
the universe came into being in the first place. This failure of the naturalistic and Darwinist ideas 
opened the door to considering the other hypothesis-that both the universe and the life it contains 
are the product of an intelligent designer. 


"A big, fundamental question, like belief in God (or disbelief), is not settled by a single 
argument," said physicist- turned-theologian John Polkinghorne. "It's too complicated for that. 
What one has to do is to consider lots of different issues and see whether or not the answers one 
gets add up to a total picture that makes sense." 10 

That's the approach I took in my investigation. I probed six different scientific disciplines to 
see whether they point toward or away from the existence of an intelligent designer. 

When I opened my mind to the possibility of an explanation beyond naturalism, I found that 
the design hypothesis most clearly accounted for the evidence of science. The "explanatory 
power" of the design hypothesis outstripped every other theory. Consider some of the facts that 
were adduced in my investigation: 

• The Evidence of Cosmology 

Thanks to scientific discoveries of the last fifty years, the ancient kalam cosmological 
argument has taken on a powerful and persuasive new force. As described by William Lane 
Craig, the argument is simple yet elegant: first, whatever begins to exist has a cause. Even 
renowned skeptic David Hume didn't deny this first premise. In fact, atheist Quentin Smith's 
contention that "we came from nothing, b y nothing, and for nothing" seems intuitively absurd. 

Second, the universe had a beginning. Based on the data, virtually all cosmologists now 
agree the universe began in the Big Bang at some specific point in the past. Craig stressed that 
even alternate theories for the origin of the universe require a beginning. For instance, Stephen 
Hawking's use of "imaginary numbers" merely conceals the beginning point in his own model, 
which Hawking admits is not really a description of reality. 

The conclusion then follows inexorably from the two premises: therefore, the universe has a 
cause. Even once-agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow conceded the essential elements of 
Christianity and modern cosmology are the same: "The chain of events leading to man 
commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy." 

• The Evidence of Physics 

One of the most striking discoveries of modern science has been that the laws and constants 
of physics unexpectedly conspire in an extraordinary way to make the universe habitable for life. 
For instance, said physicist-philosopher Robin Collins, gravity is finetuned to one part in a 
hundred million billion billion billion billion billion. 

The cosmological constant, which represents the energy density of space, is as precise as 
throwing a dart from space and hitting a bulls-eye just a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in 
diameter on Earth. One expert said there are more than thirty physical or cosmological 
parameters that require precise calibration in order to produce a universe that can sustain life. 

Collins demonstrated that chance cannot reasonably account for this "anthropic principle" and 
that the most-discussed alternativethat there are multiple universes-lacks any evidential support 
and ultimately collapses upon the realization that these other worlds would owe their existence to 
a highly designed process. 

This evidence was so powerful that it was instrumental in Patrick Glynn abandoning his 
atheism. "Today the concrete data point strongly in the direction of the God hypothesis," he said. 
"It is the simplest and most obvious solution to the anthropic puzzle." 

• The Evidence of Astronomy 

Similar to the fine-tuning of physics, Earth's position in the universe and its intricately 
choreographed geological and chemical processes work together with exquisite efficiency to 
create a safe place for humans to live. 

For example, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and science philosopher Jay Wesley Richards 
said it would take a star with the highly unusual properties of our sun-the right mass, the right 
light, the right age, the right distance, the right orbit, the right galaxy, the right location-to 
nurture living organisms on a circling planet. Numerous factors make our solar system and our 
location in the universe just right for a habitable environment. 

What's more, the exceptional conditions that make life possible also happen to make our 
planet strangely well- suited for viewing and analyzing the universe and our environment. All of 
this suggests our planet may be rare, if not unique, and that the Creator wanted us to be able to 
explore the cosmos. 

"If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have 
come into existence," said Harvard-educated astrophysicist John A. O'Keefe of NASA. "It is my 
view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in." 

• The Evidence of Biochemistry 

Darwin said, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not 
possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would 
absolutely break down." Biochemist Michael Behe has demonstrated exactly that through his 
description of "irreducibly complex" molecular machines. 

These complicated, microscopic contraptions, such as cilia and bacterial flagella, are 
extremely unlikely to have been built piece-bypiece through Darwinian processes, because they 
had to be fully present in order to function. Other examples include the incredible system of 
transporting proteins within cells and the intricate process of bloodclotting. 

More than just a devastating challenge to Darwinism, these amazing biological systems- 
which far exceed the capacity of human technology-point toward a transcendent Creator. "My 
conclusion," said Behe, "can be summed up in a single word: design. I say that based on science. 

I believe that irreducibly complex systems are strong evidence of a purposeful, intentional design 

by an intelligent agent." 

Behe's argument has proven impervious to challenges by skeptics. While obviously there 
will be future discoveries in biochemistry, Belie pointed out that they will not be able to negate 
the complexity that has already been discovered-and which is best explained by a Creator. 

• The Evidence of Biological Information 

The six-feet of DNA coiled inside every one of our body's one hundred trillion cells contains 
a four-letter chemical alphabet that spells out precise assembly instructions for all the proteins 
from which our bodies are made. Cambridge-educated Stephen Meyer demonstrated that no 
hypothesis has come close to explaining how information got into biological matter by 
naturalistic means. 

On the contrary, he said that whenever we find a sequential arrangement that's complex and 
corresponds to an independent pattern or function, this kind of information is always the product 
of intelligence. "Books, computer codes, and DNA all have these two properties," he said. "We 
know books and computer codes are designed by intelligence, and the presence of this type of 
information in DNA also implies an intelligent source." 

In addition, Meyer said the Cambrian explosion's dazzling array of new life forms, which 
suddenly appeared fully formed in the fossil record, with no prior transitions, would have 
required the infusion of massive amounts of new biological information. "Information is the 
hallmark of mind," said Meyer. "And purely from the evidence of genetics and biology, we can 
infer the existence of a mind that's far greater than our own-a conscious, purposeful, rational, 
intelligent designer who's amazingly creative." 

• The Evidence of Consciousness 

Many scientists are concluding that the laws of chemistry and physics cannot explain our 
experience of consciousness. Professor J. P. Moreland defined consciousness as our 
introspection, sensations, thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs, and free choices that make us alive 
and aware. The "soul" contains our consciousness and animates our body. 

According to a researcher who showed that consciousness can continue after a person's brain 
has stopped functioning, current scientific findings "would support the view that v mind,' 
'consciousness,' or the v soul' is a separate entity from the brain." 

As Moreland said, "You can't get something from nothing." If the universe began with dead 
matter having no conscious, "how, then, do you get something totally different-consciousness, 
living, thinking, feeling, believing creatures-from materials that don't have that?" But if 
everything started with the mind of God, he said, "we don't have a problem with explaining the 
origin of our mind." 

Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse candidly conceded that "no one, certainly not the 
Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer" to the consciousness issue. Nobel Prize-winning 
neurophysiologist John C. Eccles concluded from the evidence "that there is what we might call 
a supernatural origin of my unique self-conscious mind or my unique selfhood or soul." 


As I reviewed the avalanche of information from my investigation, I found the evidence for 
an intelligent designer to be credible, cogent, and compelling. Actually, in my opinion the 
combination of the findings from cosmology and physics by themselves were sufficient to sup- 
port the design hypothesis. All of the other data simply built an even more powerful cumulative 

case that ended up overwhelming my objections. 

But who or what is this master Designer? Like playing a game of connect-the-dots, each one 
of the six scientific disciplines I investigated contributed clues to unmasking the identity of the 

As Craig explained during our interview, the evidence of cosmology demonstrates that the 
cause of the universe must be an uncaused, beginningless, timeless, immaterial, personal being 
endowed with freedom of will and enormous power. In the area of physics, Collins established 
that the Creator is intelligent and has continued to be involved with his creation after the Big 

The evidence of astronomy, showing that the Creator was incredibly precise in creating a 
livable habitat for the creatures he designed, logically implies that he has care and concern for 
them. Also, Gonzalez and Richards presented evidence that the Creator has built at least one 
purpose into his creatures-to explore the world he has designed, and therefore to perhaps 
discover him through it. 

Not only do biochemistry and the existence of biological information affirm the Creator's 
activity after the Big Bang, but they also show he's incredibly creative. Evidence for 
consciousness, as Moreland said, helps establish that the Creator is rational, gives us a basis for 
understanding his omnipresence, and even suggests that life after death is credible. 

This is not a picture of the god of deism, who supposedly formed the universe but then 
abandoned it. As Meyer explained in my first interview with him, the abundant evidence for the 
Creator's continued activity in the universe after the initial creation event discredits deism as a 
credible possibility. 

Pantheism, the idea that the Creator and universe are co-existent, also falls short of 
accounting for the evidence, because it cannot explain how the universe came into existence. 
After all, if the pantheistic god didn't exist prior to the physical universe, then it would not be 
capable of bringing the universe into being. 

Also, Craig explained how the scientific principle of Ockham's razor shaves away the 
multiple gods of polytheism, leaving us with a single Creator. In addition, the personal nature of 
the Creator argues against the impersonal divine force that's at the center of some New Age 

In contrast, however, the portrait of the Creator that emerges from the scientific data is 
uncannily consistent with the description of the God whose identity is spelled out in the pages of 
the Bible. 

• Creator? "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the 

work of your hands."" 

• Unique? "You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; 
besides him there is no other." 12 

• Uncaused and timeless? "Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth 

and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 
Immaterial? "God is spirit." 14 
Personal? "I am God Almighty. 15 

Freedom of will? "And God said, "Let there be light,' and there was light." 16 
Intelligent and rational? "How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them 

all; the earth is full of your creatures." 1 ' 
Enormously powerful? "The Lord is ... great in power." 
Creative? "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I 

praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I 
know that full well. 

• Caring? "The earth is full of his unfailing love." 


• Omnipresent? "The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you." 

• Has given humankind purpose? "For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, 

visible and invisible.... everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him." 22 

• Provides for life after death? "He will swallow up death forever." 23 

As the apostle Paul wrote two millennia ago: "For since the creation of the world God's 
invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood 
from what has been made [that is, his creation], so that men are without excuse." 24 

The question of whether these qualities might also describe the deities of any other world 
religions became moot once I added the evidence that I discovered through the study of ancient 
history and archaeology. 

As I described in my book The Case for Christ-a summary of which is included as an 
appendix to this book-the convincing evidence establishes the essential reliability of the New 
Testament, demonstrates the fulfillment of ancient prophecies in the life of Jesus of Nazareth 
against all odds, and supports Jesus' resurrection as being an actual event that occurred in time 
and space. Indeed, his return from the dead is an unprecedented and supernatural feat that 
authenticated his claim to being the one-and-only Son of God. 

To me, the range, the variety, the depth, and the breathtaking persuasive power of the 
evidence from both science and history affirmed the credibility of Christianity to the degree that 
my doubts were simply washed away. 

Unlike Darwinism, where my faith would have to swim upstream against the strong current of 
evidence flowing the other way, putting my trust in the God of the Bible was nothing less than 
the most rational and natural decision I could make. I was merely permitting the torrent of facts 
to carry me along to their most logical conclusion. 


Unfortunately, there's a lot of misunderstanding about faith. Some believe faith actually 
contradicts facts. "The whole point of faith," scoffed Michael Shermer, editor of The Skeptical 
Inquirer, "is to believ e regardless of the evidence, which is the very antithesis of science." 

However, that's certainly not my understanding. I see faith as being a reasonable step in the 
same direction that the evidence is pointing. In other words, faith goes beyond merely 
acknowledging that the facts of science and history point toward God. It's responding to those 
facts by investing trust in God-a step that's fully warranted due to the supporting evidence. 

Oxford's Alister McGrath pointed out that all worldviews require faith. "The truth claims of 
atheism simply cannot be proved," he said. "How do we know that there is no God? The simple 
fact of the matter is that atheism is a faith, which draws conclusions that go beyond the available 
evidence." 26 

On the other hand, the available evidence from the latest scientific research is convincing 
more and more scientists that facts support faith as never before. "The age-old notion that there is 
more to existence than meets the eye suddenly looks like fresh thinking again," said journalist 
Gregg Easterbrook. "We are entering the greatest era of science-religion fusion since the 
Enlightenment last attempted to reconcile the two." 27 

To many people, including physicist Paul Davies, this is a shocking and unexpected 

development. "It may seem bizarre," he said, "but in my opinion science offers a surer path to 
God than religion." 28 

Added nanoscientist James Tour of Rice University: "Only a rookie who knows nothing 
about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring 
you closer to God. " Astrophysicist and priest George Coyne put it this way: "Nothing we learn 
about the universe threatens our faith. It only enriches it." 30 

For Polkinghorne, who achieved acclaim as a mathematical physicist at Cambridge before 
becoming a full-time minister, the same kind of thinking he uses in science has helped him draw 
life-changing conclusions about God: 

No one has ever seen a quark, and we believe that no one ever will. They are so tightly 
bound to each other inside the protons and neutrons that nothing can make them break 
out on their own. Why, then, do I believe in these invisible quarks? ... In summary, it's 
because quarks make sense of a lot of direct physical evidence.... I wish to engage in a 
similar strategy with regard to the unseen reality of God. His existence makes sense of 
many aspects of our knowledge and experience: the order and fruitfulness of the physical 
world; the multilayered character of reality; the almost universal human experiences of 
worship and hope; the phenomenon of Jesus Christ (including his resurrection). I think 
that very similar thought processes are involved in both cases. I do not believe that I shift 
in some strange intellectual way when I move from science to religion.... In their search 
for truth, science and faith are intellectual cousins under the skin. 3 ' 

He added, however, an important distinction. "Religious knowledge is more demanding than 
scientific knowledge," he said. "While it requires scrupulous attention to matters of truth, it also 
calls for the response of commitment to the truth discovered." 32 

According to McGrath, the Hebrew word for "truth" suggests "something which can be relied 
upon." Thus, he said, truth is more than about simply being right. "It is about trustworthiness," he 
explained. "It is a relational concept, pointing us to someone who is totally worthy of our trust. 
We are not being asked to know yet another fact but to enter into a relationship with the one who 
is able to sustain and comfort us." 33 

The facts of science and history, then, can only take us so far. At some point, the truth 
demands a response. When we decide not merely to ponder the abstract concept of a designer but 
to embrace him as our own-to make him our "true God"-then we can meet him personally, relate 
to him daily, and spend eternity with him as he promises. 

And that, as a young medical doctor and his wife learned, changes everything. 


No one was more surprised by the scientific evidence for God than the soft-spoken, silver- 
haired, seventy-seven-year-old physician who was sitting across from me in a booth at a 
Southern California restaurant. 

His story, like the one Craig told me earlier about the Eastern European physicist who found 
God through cosmology, is yet another testimony to the power of science to point seekers toward 
God. However, it's something else too-a road map for how you might want to proceed if you're 
personally interested in seeing whether faith in God is warranted by the facts. 

Viggo Olsen is a brilliant surgeon whose life was steeped in science. Graduating cum laude 
from medical school, he later became a diplomate of the American Board of Surgery and a 
fellow of the American College of Surgeons. In fact, his name has a whole raft of letters after it- 

M.S., M.D., Litt.D., D.H., F.A.C.S., F.I.C.S., and D.T M.&H. He attributes his former spiritual 
skepticism to his knowledge of the scientific world. 

"I viewed Christianity and the Bible through agnostic eyes," he said. "My wife Joan was a 
skeptic too. We believed there was no independent proof that any Creator exists. Rather, we 
believed life came into being through evolutionary processes." 

The problem was Joan's parents, both devout Christians. When Viggo and Joan visited them 
in 1951 on their way to starting his first internship at a New York City hospital, they got an 
earful of religious propaganda. In late-night discussions, Viggo and Joan would patiently 
explain why Christianity was inconsistent with contemporary science. Finally, in frustration at 
two o'clock one morning around the kitchen table, they agreed to examine the Christian faith for 

Olsen implied his search would be sincere and honest, but inwardly he had already hatched a 
plan. "My intent was not to do an objective study at all," he recalled. "Just like a surgeon incises 
a chest, we were going to slash into the Bible and dissect out all its embarrassing scientific 

At their new home, Viggo and Joan labeled a piece of paper: "Scientific Mistakes in the 
Bible," figuring they could easily fill it. They worked out a system under which they would 
discuss with each other what they were learning in their investigation. At the end, there would 
always be more unanswered questions. While Viggo was working at the hospital, Joan would 
research the issues left hanging. Then, on alternate nights and weekends, when Viggo was off 
duty, they studied together, analyzed, discussed, and argued. 

Problems quickly emerged-but not the kind they were anticipating. "We were having trouble 
finding those scientific mistakes," he said. "We'd find something that seemed to be an error, but 
on further reflection and study, we saw that our understanding had been shallow. That made us 
sit up and take notice." 

Then a student passed along a 1948 book called Modern Science and Christian Faith. 34 Each 
of its thirteen chapters was written by a different scientist about the evidence in his field that 
pointed toward God. Even though it was published before many of the eye-popping scientific 
discoveries that I've described in this book, the evidence was nevertheless sufficient to stun 
Viggo and Joan. 

"It blew our minds!" Olsen said. "For the first time we began to see there were reasons 
behind Christianity. Deciding to believe would definitely not be committing intellectual 


They devoured that book, plus many others that were cited in its bibliography. As they 
analyzed the evidence, they came to several conclusions. 

First, they knew on scientific grounds that the universe was not eternal. Rather, it came into 
being at a certain point. Since the universe is packed with power-heat energy, atomic energy, and 
so forth-they reasoned that it must have been brought into being by some mighty force. 

Second, they looked at the obvious design of the universe and the human body, all the way 
down to organs and cells, concluding that the power that brought the universe into existence 
must also be intelligent. 

Third, they decided that as great as the human intellect is, there is something even higher-the 
ability of people to empathize, to love, and to have compassion. Since the Creator must be 
greater than his creatures, he must also be imbued with those same qualities. 

Based on evidence and reasoning independent of the Bible, they were able to answer the first 
of the three questions that formed the basis of their investigation: "Is there a God who created the 
universe?" They surprised themselves with their verdict: yes, a personal Creator-God does exist. 

With this established, they began exploring their next two broad questions: "Did God reveal 
himself to humankind through the Bible or other sacred scriptures? And is Jesus the Son of God- 
deity united with humanity-and can he help us as he claimed?" 

The investigation continued into those topics. One day, while Viggo was working at the 
hospital, he formulated what he thought was a powerful argument against Christianity. "I was 
really proud of it," he told me, reliving the scene as if it were last month. "I spent all day 
mentally honing it. I couldn't wait to tell Joan!" 

At the end of his shift, he walked the three blocks to their small apartment. "To this day I 
remember the thought that struck me as Joan opened the door and gave me a kiss-what a neat 
little pregnant wife I've got. " 

He walked in and closed the door. Standing in the entryway, he explained his new objection 
to Christianity. Finally, he asked, "What do you think?" 

"There was silence for a moment," he recalled. "Then Joan looked up at me with her 
beautiful blue eyes and said, "But, Vic, haven't you, after all our studies, really come to believe 
Christ is the Son of God?' 

"There was something about the way she said it and the way she looked at me that almost 
instantaneously knocked down all the barriers remaining in my mind," he said. "The evidence 
was no longer obstructed. All we had learned came together into a wonderful, magnificent, 
glowing, fabulous picture of Jesus. 

"I hesitated, and then I said, v Yes, I really do. I know it's true. I do believe!' I hadn't believed 
up until that point-but with the barriers torn down, I knew she was right. We moved into the 
living room and sat down on the couch. I said, v So what about you?' 

"She said, "I settled the matter several days ago, but I was afraid to tell you. All the things we 
studied and learned finally convinced me about the Bible, about Christ, and about my need-our 
need-for him. A few days ago, I knew I was completely convinced.' She had already prayed to 
receive God's gift of forgiveness and eternal life. And that started the biggest adventure of our 

Wanting to maximize the impact they would have, Viggo and Joan prayed a bold prayer in 
which they asked God to send them to a place devoid of both Christians and medical care. He 
obliged-and they ended up spending thirty-three years in the poverty-wracked nation of 

There, they founded Memorial Christian Hospital as a center of medical care and spiritual 
light, where countless people have found healing and hope. They and their colleagues helped 
establish 120 churches. They were warmly embraced by the people and the government of 
Bangladesh-in fact, Viggo was honored with Visa #001 in gratitude for his contributions to the 

"It must have been difficult to live in an underdeveloped nation like that," I said. 

"Actually," he told me with a smile, "it was the greatest adventure we could ever have. When 
you're in a hard place, when you're over your head again and again, when you're sinking and 
beyond yourself and praying your heart out-then you see God reach out, and touch your life, and 
resolve the situation beyond anything you could have ever hoped." 

His eyes sparkled. "That's living it up!" he declared. "There's nothing that can match that. We 
got to experience that again and again and again. We wouldn't have missed it for the world. In 

my opinion, finding the purpose for which God made you-whatever it may beand then fully 
pursuing it is simply the very best way to live." 

Viggo eventually wrote three books about his experiences. I especially like the title of one of 
them-The Agnostic Who Dared to Search'"- because it suggests there is a risk involved with 
investigating the evidence for God. At some point, the truth you uncover is going to demand a 

And that could change everything. 


Though Viggo Olsen has a stronger science background than I do, there were definite 
similarities in the way we both approached the issue of faith and science. We read hooks, we 
asked questions, we tracked down leads, and we pursued the evidence regardless of where it was 
taking us. We investigated systematically and enthusiastically, as if our lives depended on it. 

And in the end, our lives, our attitudes, our philosophies, our worldviews, our priorities, and 
our relationships were revolutionizedfor the better. 

If you're a spiritual skeptic or seeker, I hope you'll resolve to investigate the evidence for 
yourself. Actually, Olsen's three-pronged approach would provide a good outline to follow: 

• First, is there a God who created the universe? 

• Second, did God reveal himself to humankind through the Bible or other sacred 

• Third, is Jesus the Son of God-deity united with humanity and can he help us as he 

You'll soon find that the universe is governed by both physical laws and spiritual laws. The 
physical laws point us toward the Creator; the spiritual laws tell us how we can know him 
personally, both today and forever. 

After all, he's not just the Creator in a broad sense; he's your creator. You were made to relate 
to him in a vibrant, dynamic, and intimate way. And if you seek him wholeheartedly, he 
promises to provide all the clues you need to find him. 36 In fact, you may even have sensed as 
you've been reading this book that he's already pursuing you in a subtle but very real way. 

You were, as the research by Gonzalez and Richards suggests, designed for discovery-and 
the greatest discovery of your life awaits you. So I hope you'll pursue scientific knowledge, but 
that you won't stop there. Don't let its allure become a destination; instead, allow it to guide you 
beyond itself to the incredible implications it offers for your life and eternity. 

My suggestion is this: take a few quiet moments to soak in these closing words, so eloquently 
expressed by Alister McGrath, and them become an impetus toward your adventure of a lifetime: 

Many have found that the awesome sight of the star-studded heavens evoke a sense of 
wonder, an awareness of transcendence, that is charged with spiritual significance. Yet the 
distant shimmering of stars does not itself create this sense of longing; it merely exposes 
what is already there. They are catalysts for our spiritual insights, revealing our emptiness 
and compelling us to ask whether and how this void might be filled. 

Might our true origins and destiny somehow lie beyond those stars? Might there not be 
a homeland, from which we are presently exiled and to which we secretly long to return? 
Might not our accumulation of discontentment and disillusionment with our present 
existence be a pointer to another land where our true destiny lies and which is able to make 
its presence felt now in this haunting way? 

Suppose that this is not where we are meant to be but that a better land is at hand? We 
don't belong here. We have somehow lost our way. Would not this make our present 
existence both strange and splendid? Strange, because it is not where our true destiny lies; 
splendid, because it points ahead to where that real hope might be found. The beauty of the 
night skies or a glorious sunset are important pointers to the origins and the ultimate 
fulfillment of our heart's deepest desires. But if we mistake the signpost for what is 
signposted, we will attach our hopes and longings to lesser goals, which cannot finally 
quench our thirst for meaning. 37 



Here is a summary of the historical evidence for Jesus Christ from thirteen leading experts 
who were interviewed for my book The Case for Christ: 


I once thought that the gospels were merely religious propaganda, hopelessly tainted by 
overactive imaginations and evangelistic zeal. But Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary, one of 
the country's foremost authorities on the biographies of Jesus, built a convincing case that they 
reflect eyewitness testimony and bear the unmistakable earmarks of accuracy. So early are these 
accounts of Jesus' life that they cannot be explained away as legendary inventions. "Within the 
first two years after his death," Blomberg said, "significant numbers of Jesus' followers seem to 
have formulated a doctrine of the atonement, were convinced that he had been raised from the 
dead in bodily form, associated Jesus with God, and believed they found support for all these 
convictions in the Old Testament." A study indicates that there was nowhere enough time for 
legend to have developed and wiped out a solid core of historical truth. 


Blomberg argued persuasively that the gospel writers intended to preserve reliable history, 
were able to do so, were honest and willing to include difficult-to-explain material, and didn't 
allow bias to unduly color their reporting. The harmony among the gospels on essential facts, 
coupled with divergence on some incidental details, lends historical credibility to the accounts. 
What's more, the early church could not have taken root and flourished right there in Jerusalem 
if it had been teaching facts about Jesus that his own contemporaries could have exposed as 
exaggerated or false. In short, the gospels were able to pass all eight evidential tests, 
demonstrating their basic trustworthiness as historical records. 


World-class scholar Bruce Metzger, professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, 
said that compared to other ancient documents, there is an unprecedented number of New 
Testament manuscripts and that they can be dated extremely close to the original writings. The 
modern New Testament is 99.5 percent free of textual discrepancies, with no major Christian 
doctrine in doubt. The criteria used by the early church to determine which books should be 
considered authoritative have ensured that we possess the best records about Jesus. 



"We have better historical documentation for Jesus than for the founder of any other ancient 
religion," said Edwin Yamauchi of Miami University, a leading expert on ancient history. 
Sources from outside the Bible corroborate that many people believed Jesus performed healings 
and was the Messiah, that he was crucified, and that despite this shameful death, his followers, 
who believed he was still alive, worshiped him as God. One expert documented thirty-nine 
ancient sources that corroborate more than one hundred facts concerning Jesus' life, teachings, 
crucifixion, and resurrection. Seven secular sources and several early Christian creeds concern 
the deity of Jesus, a doctrine "definitely present in the earliest church," according to Gary 
Habermas, the scholar who wrote The Historical Jesus. 



John McRay, a professor of archaeology for more than fifteen years and author of Archaeology 
and the New Testament, said there's no question that archaeological findings have enhanced the 
New Testament's credibility. No discovery has ever disproved a biblical reference. Further, 
archaeology has established that Luke, who wrote about one-quarter of the New Testament, was 
an especially careful historian. Concluded one expert: "If Luke was so painstakingly accurate in 
his historical reporting [of minor details], on what logical basis may we assume he was 
credulous or inaccurate in his reporting of matters 

that were far more important, not only to him but to others as well?" Like, for instance, the 
resurrection of Jesus-the event that authenticated his claim to being the unique Son of God. 


Gregory Boyd, a Yale- and Princeton-educated scholar who wrote the award-winning Cynic 
Sage or Son of God, offered a devastating critique of the Jesus Seminar, a group that questions 
whether Jesus said or did most of what's attributed to him. He identified the Seminar as "an 
extremely small number of radical-fringe scholars who are on the far, far left wing of New 
Testament thinking." The Seminar ruled out the possibility of miracles at the outset, employed 
questionable criteria, and some participants have touted myth-riddled documents of extremely 
dubious quality. Further, the idea that stories about Jesus emerged from mythology fails to 
withstand scrutiny. Said Boyd: "The evidence for Jesus being who the disciples said he was ... is 
just light years beyond my reasons for thinking that the left-wing scholarship of the Jesus 
Seminar is correct." In sum, the Jesus of faith is the same as the Jesus of history. 


By going back to the very earliest traditions, which were safe from legendary development, 
Ben Witherington III, author of The Christology of Jesus, was able to show that Jesus had a 
supreme and transcendent self -under standing. Based on the evidence, Witherington said: "Did 
Jesus believe he was the Son of God, the anointed one of God? The answer is yes. Did he see 
himself as the Son of Man? The answer is yes. Did he see himself as the final Messiah? Yes, 
that's the way he viewed himself. Did he believe that anybody less than God could save the 

world? No, I don't believe he did." Scholars said that Jesus' repeated reference to himself as the 
Son of Man was not a claim of humanity, but a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, in which the Son of 
Man is seen as having universal authority and everlasting dominion and who receives the 
worship of all nations. Said one scholar: "Thus, the claim to be the Son of Man would be in 
effect a claim to divinity." 


Gary Collins, a professor of psychology for twenty years and author of forty-five books on 
psychology-related topics, said Jesus exhibited no inappropriate emotions, was in contact with 
reality, was brilliant and had amazing insights into human nature, and enjoyed deep and abiding 
relationships. "I just don't see signs that Jesus was suffering from any known mental illness," he 
concluded. In addition, Jesus backed up his claim to being God through miraculous feats of 
healing, astounding demonstrations of power over nature, unrivaled teaching, divine 
understanding of people, and with his own resurrection, which was the ultimate evidence of his 


While the incarnation-God becoming man, the infinite becoming finite- stretches our 
imaginations, prominent theologian D. A. Carson pointed out that there's lots of evidence that 
Jesus exhibited the characteristics of deity. Based on Philippians 2, many theologians believe 
Jesus voluntarily emptied himself of the independent use of his divine attributes as he pursued 
his mission of human redemption. Even so, the New Testament specifically confirms that Jesus 
ultimately possessed every qualification of deity, including omniscience, omnipresence, 
omnipotence, eternality, and immutability. 



Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah, or 
the Anointed One, who would redeem God's people. In effect, dozens of these Old Testament 
prophecies created a fingerprint that only the true Messiah could fit. This gave Israel a way to 
rule out imposters and validate the credentials of the authentic Messiah. Against astronomical 
odds-by one estimate, one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, 
trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion-Jesus, and only Jesus throughout history, 
matched this prophetic fingerprint. This confirms Jesus' identity to an incredible degree of 
certainty. The expert I interviewed on this topic, Louis Lapides, is an example of someone 
raised in a conservative Jewish home and who came to believe Jesus is the Messiah after a 
systematic study of the prophecies. Today, he's a pastor of a church in California and former 
president of a national network of fifteen messianic congregations. 


By analyzing the medical and historical data, Dr. Alexander Metherell, a physician who also 
holds a doctorate in engineering, concluded Jesus could not have survived the gruesome rigors of 
crucifixion, much less the gaping wound that pierced his lung and heart. In fact, even before the 

crucifixion he was in serious to critical condition and suffering from hypovolemic shock as the 
result of a horrific flogging. The idea that he swooned on the cross and pretended to be dead 
lacks any evidential basis. Roman executioners were grimly efficient, knowing that they 
themselves would face death if any of their victims were to come down from the cross alive. 
Even if Jesus had somehow lived through the torture, his ghastly condition could never have 
inspired a worldwide movement based on the premise that he had gloriously triumphed over the 


William Lane Craig, who has earned two doctorates and written several books on the 
Resurrection, presented striking evidence that the enduring symbol of Easter-the vacant tomb of 
Jesus- was a historical reality. The empty grave is reported or implied in extremely early sources- 
Mark's Gospel and a creed in 1 Corinthians 15which date so closely to the event that they could 
not possibly have been products of legend. The fact that the Gospels report that women 
discovered the empty tomb bolsters the story's authenticity, because women's testimony lacked 
credibility in the first century and thus there would have been no motive to report they found the 
empty tomb if it weren't true. The site of Jesus' tomb was known to Christians, Jews, and 
Romans, so it could have been checked by skeptics. In fact, nobody-not even the Roman 
authorities or Jewish leaders-ever claimed that the tomb still contained Jesus' body. Instead, they 
were forced to invent the absurd story that the disciples, despite having no motive or opportunity, 
had stolen the body-a theory that not even the most skeptical critic believes today.